Movie review: 'Charlie's Angels' furthers franchise with latest reboot

Fred Hawson

Posted at Nov 17 2019 01:51 PM

Kristen Stewart, Naomi Scott, and Ella Balinska are the new 'Charlie's Angels.' Handout

Elena Houghlin (Naomi Scott) is a scientist behind a powerful new invention which could be dangerous in the wrong hands. When her warnings went ignored by her bosses, she decided to blow the whistle on the project by contacting the Townsend Agency. The tough-as-nails Angels assigned to her case were Sabina Wilson (Kirsten Stewart) and Jane Kano (Ella Balinska). However, after narrowly escaping an intense attempt on her life, Elena joined the Angels to get to the bottom of this case in a wild European adventure that brought them from Hamburg to Berlin, London, Istanbul and Chamonix. 

"Charlie's Angels" was one long-running TV series in the late 1970s about three former policewomen who work as private investigators, receiving instructions from the disembodied voice of a mysterious man named Charlie, whom they've never seen. This show starred Kate Jackson as Sabrina Duncan, Farrah Fawcett (then Majors) as Jill Munroe, and Jaclyn Smith as Kelly Garrett. In the second season, Fawcett was replaced by Cheryl Ladd, playing Jill's sister Kris. When Jackson left, Shelley Hack and Tanya Roberts tried to take over but could not recover the initial magic, so the series was cancelled after five seasons. 

In 2000, a film was made to reboot the Charlie's Angels franchise. This action-comedy starred Cameron Diaz as Natalie Cook, Lucy Liu as Alex Munday and Drew Barrymore as Dylan Sanders. In the second film in the series subtitled "Full Throttle" (2003), Demi Moore was cast as a former Angel Madison Lee. John Forsythe, who was the voice of Charlie for the entire five seasons of the TV series, also provided the voice of Charlie in these two films. However, because of mixed reviews, a planned third installment was canned.

This latest reboot was written and directed by Elizabeth Banks, who also took the role of a "Bosley," Charlie's assistant who worked directly with the girls on their cases. Originally played by David Doyle in the TV series and Bill Murray in the 2000 films, Bosley is now an official position title in the worldwide Townsend Agency, who took care of a whole network of Angels. Banks' Bosley was special because she was the first Angel to become a Bosley. Patrick Stewart played the role of the original Bosley who had reached his retirement age.

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When I saw the first trailer, Kirsten Stewart was the last person I expected to be cast as an Angel. Since she broke into the Hollywood A-list as Bella Swan in the "Twilight Saga," her screen persona had always been the sullen, unsmiling, mousy girl. But here as Sabina, she was funny, feisty, energetic, smart-ass, bad-ass -- everything Bella was not. Believe it or not, she was even dancing hot moves! Her smile was definitely dazzling and she had a totally winning personality. I liked this all-new Kirsten Stewart a lot.

Aside from Stewart, the two other Angels were relative unknowns. Nevertheless, I'd say they both came up with creditable performances as well. As ex-MI6 Jane, Ella Balinska is a new face, but her height and beauty were quite eye-catching, and she was quite graceful in her fight scenes. Naomi Scott, we just met as Princess Jasmine in the live action version of "Aladdin." Elena is the newbie to the group so she mostly played it cute and awkward as her scientist character gets initiated into spy action. 

The plot of trying to recover stolen technology from those who intended to use it for bad purposes is already a very overused plot device. This film really just relied on the enthusiastic performances of the new Angels to push it to a higher level of entertainment. It was difficult for this set of Angels to surpass the set in the previous film version. 

Cameron Diaz, Lucy Liu and Drew Barrymore were all already big names when they were cast as Angels. I'm game to see this new team in another more original adventure for them to prove their worth as Angels. 

This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."