Get ready to say “Good morning, Charlie” yet again. The reboot of the beloved “Charlie’s Angels” franchise arrives in theaters this weekend with a fresh set of Angels and a refined look at female empowerment.
The franchise began back in the ’70s with a television show on ABC. Created by Ivan Goff and Ben Roberts, the original cast featured Kate Jackson, Farrah Fawcett and Jaclyn Smith. The show aired for five seasons and produced 110 episodes before getting cancelled. Despite its cancellation, the Angels attracted a devoted cult fanbase that would spawn future iterations.
Fast forward to the aughts, and the Angels were embodied by Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore and Lucy Liu for two blockbuster action movies. These movies have that distinct lens of early 2000s cinema and adds a comedic tone along with the action elements. Later, ABC would try to reboot the franchise again with a television show. This reboot failed to gain traction and ended after seven episodes.
In the midst of a slew of reboots and revivals and reunions in pop culture, it’s good to take a step back and ask, “Is this one really necessary?” The 2019 “Charlie’s Angels” film definitely makes strong arguments for being one.
The preceding installments of the franchise have all featured clever women spies that can kick ass. But at the same time, the Angels were never given an assured sense of empowerment and were consistently hyper-sexualized. The original was among the group of shows that inspired the phrase “Jiggle TV.” The 2000 film is no doubt one of the horniest films I have ever seen — so horny that you almost miss the problematic racial elements.
The new “Charlie’s Angels” features strikingly gorgeous actresses in stunning outfits, but it never crosses the line of sexualization unless it is being used as distraction. The three female main characters are grounded individuals that are either self-assured and independent or grow to be by the end of the film.
This refreshing feminist lens is most likely provided by Elizabeth Banks. She wrote the screenplay, directed and acted in the film. Save for one episode of the 2011 television series, “Charlie’s Angels” has been fully helmed by male directors until Banks stepped in. Her approach to the franchise is more in step with current culture.
This is Elizabeth Banks’ second feature length film. In “Charlie’s Angels,” she builds on the style that she established in “Pitch Perfect 3.” The movies share similar tones, editing flourishes and cinematography.There are moments that cause you to question the production quality – some heavy grain and a wholly questionable stock footage “girl power” montage – but for the most part, this movie is a worthy output.
The movie begins with the introduction of Sabina Wilson (Kristen Stewart) and Jane Kano (Ella Balinska), two Angels working together to complete a mission. This film has taken the liberty of expanding three angels into an entire global network of female spies operating under the Townsend Agency name. To match the increased number of Angels, there is now a worldwide network of Bosleys to match.
Rounding out the traditional trifecta of female stars is Naomi Scott (“Aladdin,” “Lemonade Mouth”). She plays Elena Houghlin, an engineer who is driven to the Townsend Agency as a whistleblower. She works on a top secret technology project that is being rushed to market despite its ability hacked to kill people.
The film is shot in gorgeous locations around the world as the Angels travel across western Europe to prevent the technology from getting into the wrong hands.
In the past, the three main characters have had established chemistry when they are introduced. In this film, the characters are getting to know each other as the film progresses. It makes for a different story progression but gives you a more fulfilling view of their bond by the end credits.
The three actresses all give great performances. Stewart’s character is full of charisma but acknowledges that she can be a little much. Balinska gives Jane a steely coldness that betrays her true dedication and love for the agency and the people within it. Scott is appropriately endearing and awkward and perfectly delivers her character’s arc.
I would like to dedicate a paragraph of this review to the outfits and styling in this movie. The characters wear incredibly stylish outfits in every single scene of the movie. There are the practical outfits that, while action-ready and casual, are still sleek and cutting-edge in appearance. More intriguing, though, are the various outfits they wear on missions. This film is full of enviable dresses, jackets and accessories. Kristen Stewart is also able to pull off every wig she is given.
This film is not revolutionary cinema. It isn’t trying to be. This is a fun spy flick to see with friends. It does exactly what it needs to do and remains entertaining from beginning to end. In fact, the end is one of the best parts of the film as a parade of cameos help bring the film to a close.
It is a great continuation of the franchise, and I hope that Stewart, Balinska, Scott and Banks have the opportunity to make another.