Charlie's Angels - Full Throttle (Unrated Version) Review

When the first Charlie’s Angels movie was released a couple of years back some critics remarked that it was light on plot. Light on plot? What were they expecting! It certainly wasn't over-burdened in the story department, but it was high on fun and style. However, if some of those comments had been directed at this sequel, then they may well have had more of a point. In an attempt to go one better, director McG (grown-up name Joseph McGinty Nichol) tried to go much bigger and better than before. In bigger he certainly succeeded, but better? Unfortunately in that department this overblown sequel most certainly falls short.

So it was always a given that this film would have minimal plot, but this one is so thin that if you turned it sideways it would disappear. We start with a James Bond style pre-credits sequence in Mongolia which leads to a helicopter escape extremely reminiscent of the last Bond movie (though I’m reliably informed that that itself was lifted from an episode of Airwolf). We then learn that a pair of titanium decoder rings that contain all the names of people in the Federal Witness Protection Program have been stolen (what happens when someone else enters the program? Do they cut new rings each time?). Basically the Angels have to find out who stole them and get them back. Add in a side story that Dylan (Drew Barrymore) was herself in the program and that the Irish mobster she testified against (Justin Theroux) is out of prison and looking for her, and that’s it. Oh and of course fallen angel Madison Lee (Demi Moore) is the baddie behind the whole thing.

So far so similar to the first movie. Indeed many elements from the first movie have remained: The stylish and bright look to the film, the irrelevant mini-stories, the slow-mo hair flicks, the double-entendre jokes and McG’s obsession with the angels’ derrieres. So what makes this one a disappointment when the first one was fun? Basically, it’s a case of trying too hard to outdo the original. Whereas the first had a sense of fun this is just very loud and very noisy. Over the top action sequence follows over the top action sequence, with only stupid dialogue and shouting as a link between them. Most if not all of the characters are wafer-thin, and indeed a desperate attempt to get the Thin Man (Crispin Glover) back into this film amounts to one of the most pointless returning characters in cinema history, as he has absolutely nothing useful to do.

Which brings us to Bosley. Bosley was of course played by Bill Murray in the first film, and his comedic talents completely stole the film, as well as holding the film together. But after on-set fights and an (alleged) “either she goes or I go” fall-out with Lucy Liu, Murray walked and was replaced here with the “comic genius” that is Bernie Mac. Like Bill Murray, Mac also steals every scene that he’s in, but unfortunately only to kill them stone dead. In fact, the difference between the two Bosleys embodies the difference between the films, the first being fun and entertaining, the second being loud and annoying.

So the final diagnosis of what went wrong here is a bad case of sequel-itis. Whereas the first film was frothy and fun, this one tries to outdo it and ends up being noisy and overblown. The cinema-going public tended to agree, as although it has now limped up to a reasonable box office, its initial take was very disappointing. If “McG” wants to squeeze a third movie out of this franchise, it’s going to have to be a hell of a lot better than this, or he’ll be back to making music videos.

Charlie’s Angels according to McG is a bright place, full of primary colours. The wide 2.40:1 anamorphic image recreates this with reasonable clarity, though you always feel that it could have been a bit better. Cramming everything on one disc usually means that picture quality is going to suffer in the bitrate department. This is in no way a bad transfer, but it could have been better.

Another (unwelcome) carry-over from the previous release is the replacement of the film’s informational subtitles with really ugly teletext-like player generated ones.

It’s a loud movie (no surprise there) but once again the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is competent rather than anything special. The soundstage is expansive, with good use of all the channels, but it doesn’t quite ignite things as well as it should. A DTS track would have been a benefit, but alas there just would not have been room on this single disc to include it.

This is of course the “unrated” version of the movie, though as usual there’s little to get excited about. "More Action!" (their exclamation mark, not mine) is promised on the cover, but it can be measured in seconds rather than minutes. Mostly it’s a bit more violence than was depicted in the “PG-13” US theatrical release, and a little more than in the UK cinema version.

More comparisons with the last movie, as although there are a fair few extras in the package as before this tends to be lots of little documentaries to make things look more expansive than they really are. These do include the following:

There are two commentaries here. The first is a Telestrator commentary with Director McG. The “telestrator” gimmick is that along with his audio commentary, director McG draws on the screen to point certain things out. A gimmick it is, as due to the quick cut nature of the movie, things ringed often disappear quickly leaving the visual annotations in the wrong place. Ideally this would work if the picture could be frozen to point things out in detail, but DVD commentaries just do not work that way (other than having a separate cut of the movie just for this purpose).

Second is a Writer’s commentary. Stop sniggering at the back! No it wasn’t made up as they went along! In fairness, writers John August and Cormac and Marianne Wibberley are fully aware of that joke, and even make a comment about it right at the start. It’s also not a bad commentary as they share information about deleted and unfilmed scenes, and how many sequences started out very differently to the end product. Who knows, there might have been a better film in there at one time.

Also available is the Angel-Vision Fact Track which is another of those pop-up on-screen display tracks that appear and point out information regarding whatever is on screen at the time. All the usual pointless trivia is here, except this time it’s presented in a nasty hard-to-read font.

There are next a number of featurettes, which are:

The longest (and most interesting if you’re a petrolhead) of these featurettes is Full Throttle: The Cars of Charlie’s Angels, clocking in at around 18 minutes. McG takes a look at all the cars used in the movie, from the first Ferrari Enzo to set wheels on US soil, right through to the monster trucks. We are also assured that any classic cars destroyed in the film were actually mock-ups and not the real thing.

Pussycat Dolls takes a behind-the-scenes look at the Angels performing with said dancing group, and runs for about five minutes.

The fight scenes are examined in Rolling with the Punches for about six minutes. The best that can be said is that at least all this training got Lucy Liu in good shape for Kill Bill

XXX-Treme Angels is a nine minute segment on the motocross motorcycling sequence. We learn here that surprisingly more than you would expect was done for real rather than CG, with bike-mounted cameras used heavily.

The eight minute piece Designing Angels starts as a typical promo love-in for director McG, and here he talks about his “David Lean influences” (now I know that you’ve only just got over the writers’ commentary, but please settle down at the back!). The featurette does go on to redeem itself by looking at many elements of production design, including lighting and photography, costume design and locations used.

The best of the featurettes is the nine-minute There’s no such thing as a short shot, only an overworked producer. This looks at what must be a nightmare job of handling production duties on a film such as this, dealing with such problems as budgeting, getting actors back for re-shoots, and as a unique problem for these movies, shooting the multitude of mini-sequences.

Angels Makeover is a brief four-minute piece that probably isn’t what it sounds like, instead being a look at the opening sequence, and how a real dam was transformed by special effects into the Mongolian location they were aiming for.

Finally Dream Duds at three minutes (and the only one of these featurettes in anamorphic widescreen) is simply a moving photo gallery of costume designs used in the film.

Moving back to the main extra features menu, next up is Cameography, featuring thirteen of those cameo performances in the film, many of which you probably spotted, and a few you probably didn’t. For each one is a brief piece of background info, following a jump into the movie to their scene.

The Full Throttle Jukebox takes a surprisingly in-depth look at music tracks used in the movie. McG introduces each, gives the reasoning for using it, then as in cameography you can jump to the scene featuring that music. Following on in the music vein is Pink’s music video for Feel Good Time presented in non-anamorphic widescreen and 2.0 stereo.

To wrap up, the filmographies section simply lists selected film history for the director, writer and key stars. The trailers section has the trailer for this film, the previous one, and also Bad Boys II, Mona Lisa Smile, Something’s Gotta Give and SWAT, all presented in anamorphic widescreen.

Like the first movie, there are plenty of hidden featurettes scattered about, and I’ll let you find them. Menus with still images as opposed to moving ones are more likely locations though…

DVD-ROM Content
A specifically written interface for the ROM content initially looks promising, but alas it’s the same old story of everything being just web-links to material you could easily access on the Internet without this disc.

Final Thoughts
Lots of similarities between both the movie and the disc of Full Throttle to the first movie. Same disc layout, similar numbers of extras, etc. The only problem is that this time the movie isn’t very good. It passes the time in a brain-dead kind of way, but I cannot recommend it like I did the first film.

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