The new movie “Charlie’s Angels” is not a bad entertainment. It has some some color. It moves around well enough. The action scenes are decent. It even has some acting in it — Patrick Stewart has taken the project seriously enough to have come up with a real character.
Nor is this catalog of the film’s attractions intended to damn it with faint praise. The problem it has is that it is a microcosm, if you’ll excuse the dated expression, representing most of what’s predictable about Hollywood movies in 2019.
It is a remake of a remake of an old TV show that was popular in the late 1970s. It is about active women capable of defending themselves. Its cast is loaded with well-knowns in cameos and small roles.
And it has been written and directed by an actor who apparently wants a career behind the camera. That party is Elizabeth Banks, a businesswoman who worked her way into mainline comedy films but wasn’t too good to take a job as the villain of a Power Rangers movie.
She has directed before. Her “Pitch Perfect 2” set some sort of record for box office success by a rookie director, as if it were possible to be confident of any of the variables in that statement.
Banks also plays one of the principle parts in the new “Charlie’s Angels.” She’s Bosley. Those of you who remember the TV show know that Bosley in the TV series was essentially the manager of the three young female detectives employed by the Charles Townsend Agency. He was played by David Doyle, an actor who may have resembled Tom Bosley, star of “Happy Days.”
Two light but amusing movies about the agency team were made in 2000 and 2003. The current film assures us that it is the successor to the complete tradition.
But the agency, we learn, has branched out. All the team managers are referred to as “Bosley.” The agency no longer depends on recruiting unhappy LAPD officers, but instead has a training academy of its own.
The agency’s London-based agents, managed by Banks, are Jane (Ella Balinska), a former MI6 agent, and Sabina (Kristen Stewart), about whom we learn even less. The only problem with the setup for the story is that the agency doesn’t seem to have a client here.
But they are out to solve a real problem. A research firm of Americans working in Europe have invented Calista, an energy source about the size of a Rubik’s Cube. Unfortunately, Calista units can be used as bombs. As if there weren’t already enough bombs available to movie villains.
One party who has worked on the project, Elena (Naomi Scott), tries to stop the premature commercial offering of the devices. As she is also a computer hacker deluxe, it makes sense for her to be recruited as an Angel, at least temporarily.
Then, we get all the usual sorts of chasing and shooting and sneaking. Patrick Stewart appears as the now-retired chief Bosley. Banks’ character deserts her squad during a shootout at a fantasy factory. There are scenes at a race course and a sort of disco party.
The story doesn’t seem all that significant. The TV series drew many viewers with its sex appeal — the term “Jiggle TV” was coined to describe what the original cast (which included Farrah Fawcett, Kate Jackson and Jaclyn Smith) offered visually. The new movie, though, is not at all sexy.
Instead, it likes outrageous clothes and shoes and makeup. Kristen Stewart’s contract seems to have required her to wear iridescent eyeshadow at all times during the filming. One comes away from a showing impressed with Scott’s ability to run while wearing heels. And one wonders why the angels have tattoos of the Aerosmith logo?
The killer working for the villain of the piece is a 21st-century version of Robert Patrick’s character in “Terminator 2.” There is at least one plot reversal in the last reel. The happy ending (with brief scenes inserted in the closing credits) is assured.
Yep. The new “Charlie’s Angels” has every element we expect to see in 2019 action pictures. Perhaps the familiarity of the template helps explain the year’s poor box office results.