Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle is like eating a bowl of Honeycomb drenched in Red Bull -- a dizzying mouthful of unabashed silliness that leads to an equally precipitous crash once the buzz wears off after the film's first hour. Still, it would be fair to say that the movie is better than both the television show that inspired it and its film predecessor. That's half a compliment at best.
Keep in mind that the high point of the series was Farrah Fawcett riding a skateboard away from some heavily sideburned thugs. Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore and Lucy Liu return as clumsy Natalie, boy-crazy Dylan and semi-prim Alex, bouncing girl adventurers, in a sequel whose sugar-rush absurdity almost defeats the forces of logic, taste and conventional narrative. It is a defect that might undermine a lesser movie but that in this case proves to be as cheerfully, enjoyably humid as the first blast of summer light and heat.
Angels is so much like a feature-length cartoon that you may find yourself sitting through the end credits waiting to see who provided the voices for the, if you'll pardon the expression, characters. The reward for your patience will be a music video with the Angels frolicking in wet and soapy slow motion, washing a Porsche as Anyway You Want It massages your temporal lobe.
The director, McG, and the writers inform the picture with an abiding sweetness by treating the Angels like a family. The disembodied Charlie -- whose voice, as in the television show, is suavely provided by John Forsythe -- is still a Daddy Figure. The terrific trio is enlisted to retrieve a pair of purloined silver rings that blow the cover of everyone in the federal witness protection program, with predictable lethal results. But what carries more weight than any threat to law and order -- which the Angels can overcome with one hand tucked into thongs behind their backs -- is peril to the bonds that hold the three together.
CHARLIE'S ANGELS Full Throttle
Directed by: McG
Starring: Cameron Diaz (Natalie), Drew Barrymore (Dylan), Lucy Liu (Alex), Bernie Mac (Jimmy Bosley), Crispin Glover (Thin Man), Justin Theroux (Seamus O'Grady), Robert Patrick (Ray Carter), Demi Moore (Madison Lee), Rodrigo Santoro (Randy Emmers), Luke Wilson (Pete) and Shia LaBeouf (Max), and the voice of John Forsythe (Charlie).
Running time: 111 minutes
Taiwan Release: Today
In Angels there are three looming perils to Charlie's brood. One is Madison Lee (Demi Moore), the retired Angel-gone-renegade who is saddled with providing the traditional danger to the forces of good.
Another is Dylan's former lover, the Irish mob leader Seamus O'Grady (Justin Theroux), a color Xerox of Max Cady from Cape Fear -- complete with a tattoo covering his back and a score to settle. And perhaps the most insidious of all is Pete (Luke Wilson), who has just moved in with Natalie and may pop the question. Amusingly, the movie hasn't nerve enough to deal with what Pete's presence really intimates: jealousy, especially since the Angels seem as happy to tumble into one another's embrace as the Aaron Spelling stablemates Starsky and Hutch did.
There is a more specific nonfamilial intrusion, the return of the silent but deadly Thin Man (Crispin Glover), who exploits Dylan's penchant for falling for the bad guy; this probably explains why she ended up with Tom Green in the first screen version of Angels. Family peeks in from another direction, too, as a new Bosley (the nubby-silk Bernie Mac) steps into the mix to replace his brother.
In one of the many nods to other movies, the Bosley clan is basically Steve Martin's family from The Jerk; it turns out that the original Bos, played by Bill Murray in the last film, was adopted by a black family. And in Angels, Mama Bosley takes in another orphaned white boy, Max (Shia LaBeouf).