Charlie’s Angels” manages to fulfill the middle-school-age fantasies of both boys and girls and to make it clear that it does not take itself too seriously. The result is a lot of silly popcorn fun. This is the kind of movie where the action sequences may be sped up, but the heroines’ hair is always in slow motion, a sort of “Josie and the Pussycats” crossed with “Mission Impossible.”
The angels are three fabulously gorgeous, often scantily-clad women who are as brilliant as they are beautiful, and who can kick-box five guys at a time. They work as detectives, solving cases brought to them by the mysterious Charlie, who communicates with them only by speakerhone. Dylan (co-producer Drew Barrymore), Alex (Lucy Liu), and Natalie (Cameron Diaz) are so technologically adept that they can tug a few wires and make a fast food drive-through speaker sound like an MP3 track. They will stop in the middle of tracking a suspect to give each other flirting pointers and stop in the middle of a life-or-death kickboxing fight to take a phone call from a boyfriend.
Charlie’s latest client is a software firm whose programming genius, Eric Knox (Sam Rockwell), has been kidnapped. His voice identification program, if combined with global positioning technology, could be used to track anyone, even Charlie. So the angels are off to the rescue.
Just as in the old television show, this requires many costume changes — the angels go undercover as belly dancers, a race car pit crew, corporate consultants, and lederhosen-clad messengers. It also involves placing the angels in jeopardy every 17 minutes or so. But these angels don’t use guns. They take on bad guys with their wits and their feet.
The angels have so much fun that it is impossible not to enjoy them. The fight scenes were staged by the same person who did “The Matrix,” and the angels get a huge charge out of their suspended-air kicks and chops. A soundtrack of cheesy 1970’s music (“Brandy,” “You Make Me Feel Like Dancin’,”Heaven Must be Missing an Angel”) and sly digs like an airline passenger disgusted by the prospect of watching “T.J. Hooker: The Movie” keep things light-hearted. The angels are all terrific, especially Cameron Diaz, whose pure pleasure in doing horrible retro disco dances lights up an entire room. Bill Murray has some good moments as their sidekick, Bosley.
Parents should know that in addition to a lot of “action-style” violence (very little blood), the movie has drinking, smoking, and some profanity and innuendo. One of the angels is shown waking up after a one-night-stand, clearly intending never to see the guy again. She later has a sexual encounter that turns out to have been a mistake.
Families who see this movie should talk about how Dylan’s absent father affected her life, especially her decision to work for a man who would never meet her. Knox, too, was affected by an absent father. Why don’t the angels want the men in their lives to know what they do? What would happen if they told them? Even movies as essentially silly as this one can also provide good lessons in problem-solving and ethics. How do they break down the problem of getting access to the GPS software into solvable pieces? Why won’t the angels give Knox access to the GPS software? Families may also want to talk about the way that the angels use their looks as well as their brains and muscles. In some ways, a beautiful woman is impossible to miss, but in other ways she is invisible, because she is not perceived as a threat. And when they dress up in German costume and pretend to be delivering a telegram, their obvious enjoyment shows that they are the ones exploiting the befuddled recipient rather than the other way around.
Families who enjoy this movie should watch the original television show in reruns or on video as well as other television classics like “Honey West,” “Get Christy Love!” and “Police Woman.