Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle

What happened, angels? Three years ago you whipped up a trite plot to kill Charlie (the voice of John Forsythe on a squawk box ) into delicious froth. Drew Barrymore as Dylan, Lucy Liu as Alex and especially Cameron Diaz as Natalie radiated sisterly soul. It made you root for them. But something cold and mechanical has seeped into the sequel. The divas push so hard for fun, it kills the spontaneity that fun needs to breathe.

Who's to blame? Start with the story — a wheeze about finding two missing rings encrypted with the identities of everyone in the federal witness-protection program. Then move on to McG, the MTV-weaned director who claims to be a disciple of Hitchcock. Huh? Or is the relentlessly chirpy acting a tribute to The Birds? McG proves himself only a stranger to coherence.

That puts the burden squarely on the ladies. Liu recycles the same tough-bitch pose she's been hustling since Ally McBeal. And Diaz has let her once-genuine charm harden into mannerism. Only Barrymore, who co-produced the film and plays the orphaned angel plagued by her ex-boyfriend (Justin Theroux), lets humanity trickle in.

It's a relief when Demi Moore shows up as fallen angel Madison Lee. Moore, 40, looks great in a bikini and doesn't even try to act. Her unsmiling sexiness cuts through the gigglefest as the angels fight, kick, dance and motocross like Indiana Jones clones on estrogen.

McG sweats to fill a vacuum, tossing in star cameos (Bruce Willis, the Olson twins and ex-angel Jaclyn Smith) and wasting the talents who have real roles — Bernie Mac in for Bill Murray as Bosley (actually Bosley's brother), John Cleese as Alex's dad and Crispin Glover as a villain with a hair fetish.

Variety calls the film a "turbocharged money machine." Maybe. But watching Full Throttle is like being pummeled for two hours with a feather duster. It leaves no scars, but you do feel the pain.

From The Archives Issue 246: August 25, 1977