by Rob DiCristino
The soft reboot train keeps rolling along with Charlie’s Angels, a sequel to both the original ‘70s television series and the ‘00s films starring Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore, and Lucy Liu. Sony loves this formula, huh? Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, Ghostbusters (2016), Men in Black: International? Throw in Terminator: Dark Fate, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and Jurassic World, and The Soft Reboot just might qualify as its own genre. Well, Charlie’s Angels fits right in. Written and directed by Elizabeth Banks, this latest effort to reignite a dead franchise falls somewhere in the middle of the pack. It follows the Sony formula, sure: Glossy camerawork, obnoxious brand synergy, and a world-ending MacGuffin plot complete with predictable double-crosses and pointless cameos. But thanks to Banks (who receives sole screenplay credit), it also has a playful wit that mitigates some of the worst instincts of its corporate parent. It’s not Good, by any means, but we have to take our blessings where we can find them, don’t we?
You’ve seen literally any movie at all, so you know how Charlie’s Angels plays out: The Angels recruit the beautiful and intelligent Elena, show her the sexy ropes, take her on a sexy mission or two, and end up forming a sexy bond of sexy sisterhood. Lines are crossed, stakes are raised, and kicks are punched. But as much as it all seems like a boring retread of familiar themes, we can feel Banks’ reassuring sharpness (that which helped drive my beloved Pitch Perfect) between the lines, a kind of snarky eye-roll at the proceedings that lets us know we’re not to take the whole affair too seriously. While none of the character beats or emotional gut-punches work in any lasting way, there’s nothing cynical or offensive about Charlie’s Angels, either. It’s a good time. It knows exactly what it is, what it wants to accomplish, and how much fun it sees fit to make of its preposterous premise. Banks seems to know where she has to toe the line and where she has a little space to play (there’s a fun Birdman of Alcatraz bit that wouldn’t have made it out of the editing room if her character hadn’t delivered it), and she peppers enough of these diversions throughout the film to keep it interesting.