During the adrenaline-rush opening sequence — which involves skydivers and speedboats as well as comedic references to television shows being adapted into overblown movies — Charlie’s Angels establishes a specific tone: cheeky but not campy, with girlpower fueling the action and fun being the ultimate goal.
What this film shares with the 1970s television series it’s based upon is the core premise. Three female private investigators, Dylan (Drew Barrymore), Natalie (Cameron Diaz) and Alex (Lucy Liu), work for a man they’ve never met. They communicate with him via telephone and through Bosley (Bill Murray), who functions as an administrator-cum-mother hen. In the film version, the Angels are ridiculously qualified to do absolutely anything, from acrobatic martial arts (the numerous fight scenes are another great example of Hong Kong transforming Hollywood), race car driving and scuba diving to possessing enough technogeek know-how to infiltrate a supercomputer.
Director McG has constructed the film as a series of intense vignettes, each pumped to the point of hyperreality (everything is too much and then some). This format provides moments for each individual performer to shine.
So what do Natalie dancing in Spiderman Underoos, Alex playing dominatrix as motivational speaker and goofball seductress Dylan licking a steering wheel have to do with helping their client, a beleaguered software wunderkind (Sam Rockwell)? Very little, but this Charlie’s Angels is less about the case than showing how three supercapable women make cooperation their secret weapon.
Loaded with nods to the last 50 years of pop culture, Charlie’s Angels serves as a sunny repository of the American collective unconscious. McG chose not to make this into a spoof a la Austin Powers, creating instead a kind of comic book parallel universe where superheroes just happen to exist and the most powerful women imaginable are also the girls next door.
Read more about the filmmakers and actors of the new girl-powered Charlie’s Angels.
Serena Donadoni writes about film and culture for Metro Times. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.