Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle

Movie Information

Genre: Action Adventure
Director: MCG
Starring: Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore, Lucy Liu, Bernie Mac, Justin Theroux, Demi Moore, John Cleese
Rated: PG-13

It’s big, loud, dumb, colorful and largely incoherent – and, I’m ashamed to say, entertaining.

On any serious level, Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle has virtually nothing to recommend it, beyond glossy Hollywood professionalism. In short, it’s junk. But there’s garbage and then there’s playfully amusing garbage — and about 90 percent of this film is the latter.

Back in an earlier Cameron Diaz vehicle, the much-maligned (though not by me) The Sweetest Thing, there was that pleasurably self-mocking moment where she asked Christina Applegate, “Do you think we have time for a movie montage?” — and then the pair proceeded to indulge in a musical-number-styled fashion show for no good reason, except that it was playful fun. And that’s exactly the tone of nearly all of Full Throttle, which stops dead in its tracks on several occasions to insert little musical numbers.

The new Angels film starts early with Diaz entering a Mongolian (!) bar and proceeding to do the Urban Cowboy mechanical-bull shtick. A little later, we have Diaz dancing to Hammer’s “U Can’t Touch This” before she’s joined by fellow Aangels Drew Barrymore and Lucy Liu. Then things become more elaborate — a PG-13-kinky-dominatrix number set to Henry Mancini’s Pink Panther score, plus a full-blown production number set to “Last Dance.” Why? No reason. They’re just fun. And in a movie like this, that’s really all that matters.

God knows, these interruptions don’t hurt the “plot.” Full Throttle makes even less sense than Hollywood Homicide, and it’s every bit as overloaded with characters that have no discernible motivation and plot tangents that make no sense and often go nowhere. But it matters less here, simply because the movie’s never anything more than a stitched-together series of brightly colored set-pieces. On that level, it’s very nearly some kind of work of pop culture genius.

Director McG has a lot of get-up-and-go, but it’s never quite clear where all his go is supposed to be going — other than to the next set-piece. He also seems to have an encyclopedic knowledge of pop music that serves the film well. (I can’t think when I’ve seen an American movie incorporate pop and rock songs with this much savvy, though I can easily bring to mind a recent flick, The In-Laws, which tried and failed, and which shares with this film B.J. Thomas’ “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head.”) Full Throttle hits us with everything from Bowie’s “Rebel Rebel” to Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “The Lonely Goatherd” (used when the girls masquerade as nuns), The Who’s “Who Are You?,” a hard-rock cover of Elton John’s “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting” and even bits from Flashdance. The miracle is that it all fits and never feels like a bunch of music slapped together to sell a soundtrack album.

As noted, the screenplay is an absolute nightmare. I have a vague idea of what was going on with its plot about two lists of people (including Barrymore’s Dylan Saunders nee Helen Zass) from the federal witness-protection program; yet apart from over-the-top villain Seamus O’Grady (Justin Theroux) wanting to nail Helen Zass (forgive me — but who could pass up the chance to use that phrase?), I was never that sure of anything else.

I certainly don’t know what was going on with the “Thin Man” (Crispin Glover, about twice as weird and three times as creepy as he was in Willard) — and neither, I suspect, did anyone involved, since the movie seems to forget his character most of the time. The whole notion of Demi Moore as Madison Lee — a former Angel gone bad — is incredibly muddled. (And McG did her no favors by shooting her lower portions in a skimpy bikini really close-up in slow motion.) Bernie Mac is occasionally very funny in an underwritten part as Bosley, the Angels’ sidekick (and apparently the foster brother of the original Bosley, played in movie one by Bill Murray), but it’s also something of a waste — not to say a shock when he slips into what amounts to the old Mantan Moreland scared-servant routine, saying, “I ain’t goin’ near no dead bodies!” (“Feets do your stuff” may well be included in an outtake when the DVD is released.) However, also like Moreland, there’s a pleasing sense that Mac is ad-libbing his best material (he’s at least better served than John Cleese in an extended one-joke running gag).

The script does get a bonus point for working the word “merkin” into the proceedings. But that sort of esoterica — much like many aspects of the soundtrack — seems downright peculiar in light of the presumed target audience. TV Angel Jaclyn Smith pops in for a fantasy cameo and, of course, there’s John Forsythe — still sounding like John Forsythe — as the voice of Charlie. And yes, Luke Wilson’s in the movie, too. But as usual, you’ll hardly notice.

— reviewed by Ken Hanke

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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