DVDregs: Charlie’s Angels

[Loba Note: I began writing this entry almost a month ago and finally finished it today, so please forgive any lapses in memory or uneven pacing.]

John Forsythe, forgive me for what I’m about to write.

What in the name of all things angelic was I thinking when I bought Charlie’s Angels?! Better yet, when did I buy it? I don’t even remember seeing this movie for a first time, let alone having it register enough in my mind that I would willingly purchase it. To be honest, I’m mildly concerned that I have no memory of seeing the film or buying the DVD. I’m usually frighteningly good at remembering when and where I buy things. This? Not a freaking clue.

Truth be told, though, I’m a huge Charlie’s Angels fan. Old school Angels, that is. Kate, Jaclyn, and Farrah. Sabrina, Kelly, and Jill, those three little girls from Charlie’s “once upon a time,” with their feathered hair and super-70s…everything, really. It’s silly and fluffy and packed to the bikini line with cheesecake of all varieties. But it also got those three “little girls” out of their pearls and kitchen aprons (and subsequently into far, far less) and into a realm that was once a bastion of boys-only-ness. Yes, they were sex kittens (who hasn’t seen that Farrah poster, eh?), but they were also proof to the girls of my generation that yes, Virginia, there can be more to life than finding the perfect apple pie recipe (ooh, I’m going to get comments on that one, aren’t I?).

Besides, what is there not to love about this?

[Loba Pop Quiz: Can you guess which Angel is my favorite? I’ll give you three guesses…]

So what about this movie then? What about it, indeed. There’s really no point in discussing the plot. Whatever predictable, poorly written (a total of 18 different writers purportedly hacked away on this script; 18!!) crime-capery plot you can imagine, you’re probably pretty close to being right. Nothing deep there.

What about the cast? Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz, and Lucy Liu play Dylan, Natalie, and Alex, the newest Angels to join the Charles Townsend Detective Agency. I don’t really know much about Liu beyond the fact that apparently she and Bill Murray, who played Bosley in this movie, shut down production for a day with a rip-roaring argument. Other than that, she didn’t really make much of an impact on me as Alex. Diaz? Though there are times when I find her delightful (The Mask, There’s Something About Mary, and Shrek come to mind), truth is I find her taxing after a while. No one human being should be allowed to be that perky and bubbly for such an extended period of time.

And Barrymore? As much as I admire and respect how she pulled her shit together and came back from the precipice of drug-induced disaster that so many other child stars have tumbled over, I simply did not buy her in this role. She wanted so desperately to be sexy and smoldering. But with her cherubic face and Cindy Brady lisp, she’s always going to be (to me, at least) trapped by her own adorableness. Even when she’s reveling in a little on- or off-screen badassery or naughtygirlness, it’s with heart-dotted Is and a cutesy giggle that makes you want to hang from the monkey bars with her and trade friendship bracelets that you made at summer camp.

[Okay, maybe that’s just me on that last one.]

The rest of the cast is rounded out by Tim Curry, Sam Rockwell, and Kelly Lynch as well as Crispin Glover playing a character surpassed on the creep-o-meter only by his turn as Willard, the rat wrangler. Glover was probably the most perfect casting choice in this movie, actually, but I think that’s just because he plays creepy/crazy better than anyone else. Curry, however, was severely underutilized, especially for an actor of his level of awesome. Rockwell was entertaining as always, but his character was surpassed only by Lynch’s in villainous predictability (oops, gave that one away, didn’t I).

But is my biggest gripe about this movie the fact that it was so by-the-numbers predictable? No, not really. I’m sure if I went to my DVD shelf right now, I could pull at least five movies that were just as, if not more predictable than this one. Maybe it’s all the reverential references to the original show that grated on me. Or maybe it was the mixed message that little girls can be total badasses and do anything they want…but they’re still going to have to dress like hookers when they do.

Not that I’m in any way disparaging those who practice the world’s oldest profession. Or ignoring the fact that the original Angels probably wore far less far more frequently than Dylan, Natalie, and Alex. But…I don’t know. It seemed more expected back in the day. With this movie, it felt misplaced and false. Not to mention ridiculous. Again, that’s a word that I expect to be associated with 70s TV shows. I guess I didn’t want such huge helpings of it with the movie remake. Or maybe I just didn’t want a remake period, and nothing they did was going to please me. I’m persnickety that way.

DVD Special Features: Yet again, I’m astounded by the plethora of special features on another 10-year-old DVD. First, we’ll get the obligatory commentary track out of the way, this one featuring director McG and director of photography Russell Carpenter.

I desperately wanted not to like McG. Really it’s because of his nom de directeur. Loba doesn’t trust people who don’t go by their real names. However, he and Carpenter make a great team and present a strong and enjoyable commentary: lots of background information, lots of tech talk, and lots of fun tidbits. Plus, McG’s excitement is infectious and Carpenter’s knowledge holds it all together when the excitement isn’t quite enough. I still don’t think much of McG’s oeuvre, but really it’s not big enough to make a final ruling on his abilities.

[Wow, did that sound dirty or is it just me? Just me again? Right.]

Also on tap are deleted and extended scenes, which again I think are a bit of a waste. Still haven’t seen anything from this portion of any DVD that didn’t deserve to be cut or edited in the first place. The outtakes and bloopers are fun; however, you’ll have already seen them all if you make it to the end of the movie and watch the credits. Of course there are music videos (McG was the director, after all). Videos for Destiny’s Child’s “Independent Women” and the Apollo 440 remix of the Charlie’s Angels theme are included here. Meh on both videos. I’ve seen better. I’ve heard better as well.

We’ve also got a heaping helping of featurettes: on McG (lots of sunshine pumping all around in this one), the wardrobe (because, you know, it’s important to look sexy when you’re straddling a torpedo while trying to reprogram it), set design, the martial arts training of the Angels, and the wire work that was involved. You know what? I think that’s one of the things that irritated me the most about this movie: the obvious wire work. It’s not like they left the wires in or anything, but every time the actors were doing something while fitted up with wires, you could instantly tell. It always looked to me like they were in some sort of slow-motion suspension…deep sea Kung Fu diving until the fast-paced editing kicked in. And that just ruins all chances of suspension of disbelief (as if this movie had any chance of that anyway). Besides, if I want to watch a movie with wire work, I’ll watch it done right and pull out my copy of The Matrix. More black leather in that one anyway. Black leather, FTW.

The DVD also includes talent files, production notes, and theatrical trailers. It’s also old enough that it still mentions “animated menus” as a special feature. I only mention it here because I think the opening menu animation was my favorite part of this movie. Yes, I know exactly what that says about this movie. Here, watch this teaser trailer. The beginning of this, with the one man breaking into the three Angels is what they used as the opening menu animation. Excellent bit of CGI there. Also, this teaser trailer is pretty much all you really need to watch in order to get the full movie experience: pretty actresses pouting their lips and doing high kicks (don’t forget to flip your hair, Angels!), and Bill Murray being silly (okay, Bosley, you can flip your hair, too).

Final Verdict: Sorry, Charlie, but I’m going to have to let your Angels go. I enjoy silly and pointless as much as the next movie geek, but there’s something so offputting about this movie. I’m still not quite sure that I’ve even come close to explaining myself on this one…but something about this movie really, really turns me off. Maybe it’s the music video-style pacing. Maybe it’s the jumbled pastiche of ripped-off tricks from other movies that McG attempted to make fresh for the millionth time. Maybe it’s just that, while I don’t mind sexy, I think I prefer sexy and substantial. And this movie is about as deep as Justin Bieber’s kiddy pool.

Whatever the reason, time to say goodbye. And don’t even think for a second I’m giving the sequel a chance.