Can a lip-gloss divafest like Charlie’s Angels hack it as a guilty pleasure? Duh. Just watch these Angels fly; no guns, they’re kung-fu fighters. And they look cool, too, thanks to Cheung-Yan Yuen, kid brother of The Matrix fight master Wo-Ping Yuen. As Dylan, the ever-adorable Drew Barrymore gets blown bare-assed out of a window and still manages to bust the chops of five male thugs while tied to a chair. As Natalie, Cameron Diaz — an irresistible mix of sunshine and sexuality — triple-kicks a bad guy and then hits the dance floor like her booty has a witty mind of its own. As Alex, Lucy Liu walks barefoot on a villain’s back, teases his lips with her toes and then dons spike heels for an S&M thwacking that even Ling (her kinky character on Ally McBeal) would wince at.
Horny boys of all ages will flock to this megabudget ($100 million), babelicious film version of the TV series (1976-81) that made “jiggle” a term of endearment. Back then, the joke was that, given the dumb plots, you could watch the show with the sound off and focus on how Farrah Fawcett, Kate Jackson and Jaclyn Smith fought crime in various states of undress.
Some things never change. It reportedly took fourteen writers (only three earn screen credit) to concoct the story — so thin it would be a stretch to call it flimsy. Dylan, Natalie and Alex are the latest recruits at the detective agency run by the unseen Charlie. Bill Murray provides the laughs as Bosley, Charlie’s right-hand man. It’s heaven to hear Murray’s mock-French references to the girls as “mes anges.”
The plot pivots on two evil computer geniuses, played by Sam Rockwell and Tim Curry, and a scheme to kill Charlie. Debuting director McG, best known for music videos (Sugar Ray, Korn), keeps the action relentless while borrowing freely from other flicks (The Matrix, True Lies, M:I-1 and M:I-2) with no sense of shame.
Credit Barrymore, as one of the producers, for the film’s quirky sense of mischief, which sets it apart from such calamitous clones as The Mod Squad and Lost in Space. For example, when Crispin Glover, as a villain called the Thin Man, cuts a lock of Angel hair and then sniffs it, or when Murray, trapped in a dungeon, says, “I’m a prisoner in Cher’s bedroom,” or when Tom Green, Barrymore’s fiance, shows up for a funny-flirty cameo, Charlie’s Angels feels like the most expensive home movie ever made. I mean that as a compliment. Even if the Angels fly better as eye candy than as feminist role models, it’s silly to clip their wings. These kickass Barbies bring heart to a machine-tooled genre.