I am pretty sure everything that happens in “Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle” is impossible. The characters exist in a world where the gravity is enforced haphazardly at best, and where the laws of physics in general are treated with outrageous disrespect.
The title heroines, in particular — private detectives, though that doesn’t begin to describe their real duties — cannot be killed, no matter how many times they are shot at or hit or dropped from great heights. As befitting a trio with apparently superhuman strength and regenerative powers, the Angels do not fear death.
If you thought “Charlie’s Angels” was a respite from the slew of superhero films this summer, think again. These are a new breed of comic book character, the kind that came from a cheesecake ’70s TV drama rather than from graphic novels.
I was a fan of the 2000 film to which this is a sequel, which had the same cast of Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz and Lucy Liu, and the same director, McG. It succeeded because rather than reverencing its unintentionally stupid source material, it mocked it, embraced it and ran with it. It went over the top, which is where “Charlie’s Angels” needed to go.
The sequel, though, is just more of the same, and the novelty has worn off. Once you’ve gone over the top, the only place to go is down the other side. What happens in “Full Throttle” is SO ridiculous, SO incredible, that the film cannot sustain itself for its running time, and it doesn’t help that there is little cleverness in what the Angels do in terms of silly disguises or ingenious fighting tactics. Remember in the first film when Drew Barrymore fought a crowd while tied to a chair? There’s nothing even resembling that kind of resourceful wit in the sequel.
In case you care, the Angels this time are looking for two rings that, when put together, reveal the identities of everyone in the FBI’s Witness Protection Program. They’ve fallen into the wrong hands, and witnesses are dying. Et cetera.
Bernie Mac is characteristically funny as the Angels’ boss, Bosley (the brother of Bill Murray’s character in the first film; don’t ask how), and Demi Moore is a campy, luminous presence as Madison, a former Angel now working for herself – but neither is given enough to do. Ditto poor John Cleese, wasted as Liu’s father, showing up for nothing more than a bit of “Three’s Company”-style farce-via-misunderstanding.
McG, whose feature debut was “Charlie’s Angels,” demonstrates an exciting visual style in both films, and it goes a long way toward making this one passably entertaining. But a clearer focus of purpose is necessary. What made the first film work? It was not one scene after another of the Angels fighting in the same old repetitive way, that’s for sure.
C+ (1 hr., 46 min.; )