Empowerment runs amuck over entertainment in maligned reboot of Charlie’s Angels
WATCH THE TRAILER(S) HERE:
Jane, however, is about to have a bigger problem on her hands when in attempting to meet with a man named Bosley (Djimon Honsou), an assassin (Jonathan Tucker) tries to kill her. This leads to Jane meeting up with the rebellious Sabina (Kristen Stewart) and no-nonsense Elena (Naomi Scott), two female secret agents who work for the Townsend Agency – the same agency that employs Bosley … the soon-to-be-retiring Bosley (Patrick Stewart) … And the woman Jane will also come to know as Bosley (Banks).
Confused? Well, you should be – it’s about to get a lot more complicated from here. And that’s why Jane’s guardian angels are about to try to save not only her life, but the world, too.
Now, before one accuse yours truly of a blatant case of mainsplaining, let me simply point to the film’s opening scene as an example of empowerment run amuck: Stewart’s character is literally explaining to the audience why women are underestimated, unappreciated and generally taken for granted as underachievers. This is balanced out, of course, by a male antagonist so taken with her beauty, he must then via his substandard, terribly over-the-top dialogue explain why everything she is saying is basically wrong – only of course to get his comeuppance because Stewart’s seductive agent has been setting him up. Of course the audience knows it, but the film makes sure to spell it out for them because it wants to drive home the point of the entire 80 minute-plus experience: Women can do whatever and they’re gonna do it loud, brash and however they want.
Unfortunately, as the heavy handed scene also shows, in the case of Charlie’s Angels, they’re gonna hit you over the head with it at every possible turn.
Charlie’s Angels wants to be the ultimate badass female movie: It attempts to feature Stewart as a wise-cracking rebel who’s quick with her one-liners, the Rihanna-esque Scott as a … Rihanna-esque no nonsense agent (who is by far the most believable character) and Balinska as an awkward, fish out of water just trying to do the right thing. Problem is, Stewart feels like she’s doing her best imitation a female action movie hero and it’s never believable, Balinska’s fish out of water is so out of water it’s almost like a live-action cartoon a la The Simpsons and Scott feels like she’s overcompensating for the other two. None of the three characters are really developed beyond a simple explanation (“She grew up rough!” “She’s smart” “She’s smart and nerdy and awkward!”). The timing of the sexualization of their characters comes off a bit misplaced (“Let’s infiltrate this mansion … With a fully choreographed dance routine as part of our cover!”), the fight scenes are comical when meant to be serious and just silly when they meant to be comical and the heavy-handed storytelling makes sure to guide the audience instead of letting things play out more naturally.
Complicating matters further is the fact the jokes are (1) usually forced (2) usually stale and (3) just not working. The male characters are either complete bumbling morons to the point you can’t take any of them (save for Jonathan Tucker’s heavily tattooed assassin) seriously or so sleazy they might make Harvey Weinstein wince. Charlie’s Angels may go down as Stewart’s worst performance in eons. While his Bullock character on Seth McFarlane’s now exiled to TBS cartoon American Dad! is supposed to be a buffoon, the fact this character is supposed to be taken seriously is cartoonish in and of itself.
It doesn’t make for a great viewing experience outside of its target audience: Young women who want to see young women be heroes, no matter how ridiculous the story and how over-the-top pretty much everything else in the mix may be. In trying to be empowering, it almost comes off as egregious and does the very opposite of what it wishes to do for all audiences. Just like this year’s earlier action detective reboot Shaft (which had slightly better jokes … slightly), Charlie’s Angels just isn’t memorable as much as it is missable.
Don’t call me angel when I get undressed,
You know I, I don’t like that, boy,
Uh, I make my money, and I write the checks,
So say my name with a little respect,
All my girls successful, and you’re just our guest”