Charlie's Angels Review
Once upon a time there were three little girls... and once upon a time - the seventies to be exact - there was a TV show called Charlie's Angels, starring Farrah Fawcett, Jaclyn Smith and Kate Jackson. A fair few personnel changes later, the show finally folded in 1981. An attempt to bring it back a few years later, with Angels '88, never got off the ground, but finally it was resurrected by Columbia Tristar, and here we have the result. A few things have changed over the years, as the "three little girls" are no longer from the police academy, and under producer / star Drew Barrymore's insistance, do not use guns. So martial arts are the order of the day, and Hollywood's current infatuation with the genre means we get plenty of "Matrix-lite" action. The girls themselves are now Natalie, Dylan and Alex, played by Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore and Lucy Liu, respectively. Bosley is still on hand to look after the girls, now played by Bill Murray, and the never seen Charles Townsend is voiced as always by John Forsythe.
Multiple rewrites, a first time director, rumours of disagrements and fighting on set between the stars. There was high expectation that this movie was going to be an umitigated disaster. The fact that it turned out to be an enjoyable romp despite such a turbulent production is all the more surprising. There was a lot of criticism of the movie when it first appeared at the cinema that it was too lightweight, too fluffy, too much just popcorn entertainment. All I can say to those comments is, have these people ever seen the original show? What were they possibly expecting?! This movie always had to be lightweight entertainment, based on its source material. But as a popcorn movie, it's a very entertaining piece of nonsense. It's very slickly put together, as would be expected from a first-time director fresh from the music promo video business. The story revolves around client Eric Knox (Sam Rockwell) and a plot that sees him kidnapped and his voice recognition software stolen by a sinister corporation headed by Roger Corwin (Tim Curry). But don't worry about that too much, just soak up the atmosphere of the movie, including some impressive stunts and amusing set pieces. Diaz, Barrymore and Liu do a decent job as the Angels, especially Cameron Diaz, proving she can do kooky as well as more offbeat roles such as in Being John Malkovich. Bill Murray was the perfect choice for Bosley, though he is perhaps a little underused. My initial concerns that Tim Curry would ham it up and ruin his role as a villian were largely unfounded, and who would have guessed that Crispin Glover - Michael J Fox's geeky dad in Back to the Future - would ever star as a sword-wielding martial arts assassin.
Whereas there are plenty of largely plotless action movies around that pretend they are serious thrillers, Charlie's Angels has no such pretentions. It knows it is vacuous entertainment, and is all the more fun for it. High quality brainless entertainment of the best kind. Roll on the sequel!
This film is full of bold, primary colours, and the transfer handles it all as well as could be expected. Only one quibble, the captions used in the cinematic version during the break in to Redstar's computer have been replaced with chunky, sub-teletext lettering that spoil the otherwise slick look of the movie.
A big action film demands big sound, and this Dolby Digital 5.1 track delivers the goods pretty much flawlessly. There are plenty of opportunities for the soundtrack to shine, particularly the alley fight scene and the race track sequence, which it handles all very well. The powerful musical score is also as "in your face" as it should be. Excellent.
On the face of it, with three menu screens full of extras, this looks like one of the all-time greatest DVD packages. However, on closer examination many of these featurettes are quite short and could have been all run together as one 35 minute piece. Having said that, there's still plenty of good stuff here, including:
The commentary features director McG and director of photography Russell Carpenter. This is very good commentary as from frame one they are immediately divulging plenty of information. They are happy to talk about some of the "disagreements" on set as well as point out the odd continuity error here and there. The only quibble is the annoying habit Carpenter has of talking at times about McG as if he is not participating in the commentary.
The deleted scenes section includes 2 scenes removed altogether, and one that was done differently for the finished product. McG introduces the clips and explains why they were cut, and I couldn't agree more with his decisions.
The outtakes and bloopers section is a disappointment. Remember the outtakes you saw at the end of the movie? Well, this is exactly the same, with just the text of the credits removed.
There are a series of mini featurettes, the first being Getting G'd up which is, unsurprisingly, a profile of the director - otherwise known as Joseph McGinty Nichol. It's a bit gushing and fawning - McG himself has said it's a bit embarrassing - but its 6 minutes are watchable. The Master and the Angels profiles fight choreographer Cheung-Yan (the Master) and his work with the actors, training them not necessarily in martial arts as such, but instead how to look like they are performing them. It runs for about 8 minutes. Production design is looked at in Welcome to Angel World. Each sequence of the movie has a different look and feel to it, and the use of sets and colour is highlighted in this piece which runs for about 5 minutes. Costume design for the girls (and Bosley) is the subject of Angelic attire: dressing Cameron, Drew and Lucy. The 7 minute piece Angelic effects obviously looks at the special effects process, including the now ubiqitous wire removal sequences. To complement this the final featurette is Wired Angels which shows the alley fight scene in rough cut before the special effects were applied.
There are two music videos available, one is the video for Independent Women pt 1, by Destiny's Child, the other for Charlie's Angel's 2000, by Apollo 440. Both are presented in non-anamorphic format.
There are a number of trailers here, some for this movie, others for films starring people in this movie, the rest just studio plugs. The theatrical trailer and teaser trailer include some material not in the film, and there are also trailers for My Best Friend's Wedding, Vertical Limit, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, The Adventures of Joe Dirt and Final Fantasy. Impressively, almost all of these trailers are anamorphic and feature Dolby Digital 5.1 sound.
The talent files feature the usual info on the girls, Bill Murray and director McG (including his full name!).
There are three hidden features lurking among the extras. It's pretty much common knowledge where these are located, but suffice to say clicking around the special feature menus in all directions will get you to them. Nothing overly exciting here, but worth hacking around to find.
There is a web link on the ROM section of the disc, but it's just a one button app that fires up your browser and takes you to the official site, so it's hardly worth loading the disc into your DVD-ROM drive for. At least it doesn't pretend to be disc-based content whilst really accessing the net, like many other disc's ROM material does, though.
As a final thought regarding the extras, it would have been nice to have an isolated score option, particularly as the soundtrack CD available is really a compendium of hit music from the film, rather than the scored music itself.
This is very lightweight froth, but it's also very entertaining lightweight froth. Director McG set out to make a fun film, and that's what we got. The technical aspects of the disc are excellent and the extras, whilst not quite as amazing as they first appear, make this a disc well worth having. Director McG has said he would like to do a new version of the disc with more extras, but I wouldn't hang around for that as it may not happen, so add this disc to your collection instead.
...and that's kicking your ass!
Note that this is an RCE encoded disc, so if your player has problems with such discs, it may be worth considering the near identical region 2 version.