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Dustin's Review

Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle (2003)
2 Stars

Directed by McG
Cast: Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz, Lucy Liu, Bernie Mac, Demi Moore, Matt LeBlanc, Luke Wilson, Justin Theroux, John Cleese, Crispin Glover, Robert Patrick, Shia LaBeouf, Jaclyn Smith, Pink, Robert Forster, Carrie Fisher, Bruce Willis, Mary-Kate Olsen, Ashley Olsen, Eve, Eric Bogosian, Melissa McCarthy; voice of John Forsythe.
2003 – 105 minutes
Rated: Rated PG-13 (for violence, sensuality, and language/innuendo).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, June 27, 2003.

Wall-to-wall music, action, laughs, romance, tight editing, and delightful performances all made 2000's "Charlie's Angels" one of the most purely entertaining popcorn movies to stroll through theaters in years. Negative press may have led up to its release, but it was all for nothing, as the film completely surpassed expectations and also became a big box-office hit (raking in $125-million stateside and $265-million internationally). In short, "Charlie's Angels" is one of those rare motion pictures I can watch over and over and not tire of. It is that much fun.

All of the major players have returned (minus Bill Murray as Bosley) for "Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle," a sequel that is undoubtedly bigger than the first, but nowhere near as good. Music-video-turned-feature-director McG made its predecessor what it was—a deliriously joyful, witty, purposefully light-hearted cinematic ride—and he has luckily returned. What is so invigorating about McG is that he is not a hack filmmaker, but someone who puts real care into every aspect of his films, making them perfect for anyone who enjoys action, comedy, drama, romance, music videos, or all of the above. The main problem with "Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle" is that, this time around, McG is so eager to please fans of the series by staying true to the first film and upping the ante on the stunts, action, and costume changes that it comes off feeling occasionally strained rather than laid-back. Even with its various flaws, the movie offers up as much lively, undemanding entertainment value as any summer movie you are likely to see this year, and that should count for something.

Intelligent klutz Natalie (Cameron Diaz), naughty good girl Dylan (Drew Barrymore), and level-headed, tough-as-nails Alex (Lucy Liu) are back as the Angels, an undercover squad sent out by their never-seen boss, Charlie (voiced by John Forsythe), to head top-secret investigations and stop megalomaniacs. Stepping in for Bill Murray's Bosley is his brother (Bernie Mac), who is just starting to learn the ropes of the organization. The silly premise this time around has to do with two decoder rings with the power to locate anyone within the Witness Protection Program. Currently in the hands of Angel-gone-bad Madison Lee (Demi Moore), who wants to sell them to a group of thugs led by Dylan's convict ex-boyfriend, Seamus O'Grady (Justin Theroux), Natalie, Dylan, and Alex must get the rings back from Madison before the entire world becomes unprotected.

"Charlie's Angels" may not have had the most airtight of plots, but it is a veritable ball of logic compared to this follow-up. As is often the case with sequels, "Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle" adds several new extraneous characters into the mix and an overly complicated plot that heads in too many directions at once. Whereas the original had one main premise that was consistently driven forward by each fast-paced and delicious new scene, here there are sequences that are convoluted and don't really add up to the greater whole or make much sense. The result is an experience not quite as focused or fresh as it was when director McG made virtually the same movie three years ago.

But who's kidding who? "Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle" is not about story or a cohesive narrative or three-dimensional characters. It is a cotton-candy fantasy filled with media and sensory overload, and its only goal is to offer 100 minutes of unadulterated fun. It helps that going along for the ride are three extraordinarily beautiful and vivacious women in the form of Drew Barrymore (2001's "Riding in Cars with Boys"), Cameron Diaz (2001's "The Sweetest Thing"), and Lucy Liu (2002's "Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever"). Barrymore, Diaz, and Liu are game for anything that comes their way, whether it be going undercover as crime scene investigators, hot dog vendors, nuns, or vaudeville dancers, and the amusing time they so obviously have putting on every costume and performing every scene carries over into the audience watching them. The 50-plus song selections of popular music spanning from the 1970's to the present day is like a veritable who's who of artists and songs you may have forgotten about but always loved. The soundtrack leads the way from scene to scene, and it is nice to have jam-packed music in a movie that isn't meant to buy albums as much as it is to better the pacing and overall effect of the film itself.

Much press has been made of Demi Moore's participation as head villain Madison Lee. Moore, who hasn't had a major film role since 1997's "G.I. Jane" (not counting 2000's little-seen "Passion of Mind"), looks stunning for someone who has just passed the age of 40, and she digs into her nasty role with vicious delight and even an extra character shading of possible sympathy. Unfortunately, her screen time probably wouldn't add up to more than 15 minutes, so there is something of a slight missed opportunity in what could have been further done with her memorable villainess.

As the new Bosley, Bernie Mac (2003's "Head of State") is surprisingly bearable and even has a few sharp one-liners, but is no match for the sorely-missed Bill Murray. Returning as the creepy Thin Man, Crispin Glover (2003's "Willard"), so unforgettable in the original "Charlie's Angels," is relegated to almost a cameo. When an intriguing plot development concerning he and Dylan arises during the climax, it is sloppily thrown away almost before anything is done with it. As Alex and Natalie's boyfriends, Matt LeBlanc (TV's "Friends") and Luke Wilson (2003's "Alex and Emma") also make likable return appearances. Jaclyn Smith, one of the original Angels from the television series, has a respectful one-scene appearance, while Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen spark laughs from a clever cameo of their own.

"Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle" is not a throwaway sequel, made only to cash in on the original's popularity, and it is obvious watching it that attention was made to try and make it a solid follow-up. Unfortunately, it must follow a movie that was like lightning in a bottle, wherein a sort of gleeful movie magic was created that director McG may never be able to recapture again from the burgeoning series. "Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle" is a great time at the movies, to be sure, but it stands in the shadow of something that was more original, more satisfying, and somehow more complete.
© 2003 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman