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Nik Huggins

Published July 2nd, 2003 | by Nik Huggins

Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle Review

Another week, another sequel. 2003, the official year of the rehash, continues to unravel its dearth of new blood with yet another follow-up flick. Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle; that high gloss, high kicking most sequined of sequels again proves that the sisters are kicking ass for themselves (and of course; the elusive Charlie).

A couple of hairdos and the odd bikini wax older, the Angels descend down to us once more. Still contented to take orders from a loudspeaker, Cameron Diaz, Lucy Liu and Drew Barrymore reprise their roles as Natalie (this girl loves to dance), Alex (demure, cerebral and exotic) and Dylan (self-styled rock chick). Alone they are formidable, together they have a giggle throwing men into jukeboxes and determining scientific prognoses from the most threadbare of evidence. In essence they combine remarkable insight with tasteful outfits and an enduring desire to use the full repertoire of womanly tools to put men out of business permanently.

This time around, the Angels are despatched to retrieve the two “Halo” rings, tiny electronic storage devices worn by US Marshals, containing the assumed identities of individuals residing in the Witness Protection Programme. “It was three crazy beautiful girls!” cries the Mongolian commander into his radio as the Angels burst lithely out of the Himalayan stronghold with captured US Marshal Ray Carter (Robert Patrick) under their wing, setting into motion an opening escape scene that is gleefully preposterous to watch. The Angels swoop down into a falling helicopter and manage to start it up just in time to avoid a pressing engagement with the fast approaching surf below. As the girls delve deeper into the case, assuming countless guises and undertaking a plethora of thrilling activities, they discover that at the centre of the plot someone has been waiting a long time to get even with Charlie and his team.

Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle gives the overriding impression that everyone involved had a really good laugh making it. There is an overwhelming sense of confidence that radiates through the whole glitzy shebang. Beginning with the director’s readiness to invoke the authentic, light-hearted ethos of the original TV show and finishing with the chemistry that bubbles between the three leading ladies and beyond. Choosing the path of parody and fun-poking definitely works in Full Throttle’s favour, in the midst of a whole host of remakes that plump for a more serious reinterpretation of the original (The Saint, the forthcoming Italian Job remake, both lacking the charm of their predecessors). The spirit of the seventies is transferred accurately and effectively in a film that remains very contemporary in its execution.

So up to date in fact, that in this sequel they have thrown the “bullet-time” bargain bucket into the mix. The Angels now possess Neo-like acrobatic qualities that underpin the films’ cartoony credentials. These specialised camera effects, although somewhat over used, are now a fully-fledged part of the modern blockbusters’ repertoire. They are so pivotal to an undertaking such as Full Throttle that they effectively define much of the style, tone and pace of the film. Slick and seamless movements, impossible to create through traditional camera techniques, track and pan through an apparent three-dimensional space. Digitally woven together, these elements provide a formal complement to the films’ showy content and heavyweight dramatis personae.

Part music video, part video game, part live-action animation and part self-reflexive movie mish-mash of film allusions, cameos and in-jokes, Full Throttle zips along, unashamedly rampant with nods and winks to the entire maelstrom of popular culture. Much of the fun found in watching comes from spotting these snags. The real trick is to be the first in the cinema to notice them, whereupon you allow yourself a smug little chuckle. Most of the time these multi-layered references are telegraphed well in advance with a knowing line of dialogue or a short jingle of music so that even the least well honed of popular culture compasses can locate the source. The range and complexity of these on screen indicators often overshadows the rather tedious plot, suggesting that Full Throttle has complete understanding of where its true strengths lie, constructing a textured web of self-reflexivity that borrows vociferously. I won’t ruin your fun by listing them all here, but look out for a cameo by original seventies series heroine Jaclyn Smith, and a convoluted and obscure lift from The Blues Brothers. Bernie Mac goes someway to filling Bill Murray’s shoes as the new Bosley, the girls’ collective manservant, and Matt Le Blanc and Luke Wilson return as the largely peripheral male love-interests, threatening to come between the girls and their important work.

Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle is throwaway but fun. An amusing counterpoint to the macho majority of the summer offerings, the second Angels adventure is the sort of film that I find myself liking, against all my better judgement. The tease is very hard to resist, and the carefree and bubbly tone of the piece is refreshingly palatable.

Retro visuals, subtle sound effects and moments of sublime gratuity, such as the carwash scene at the end, prove to be a potent and intoxicating blend. The dynamic trinity make things glide along at all times despite the odd ropey effect of distastefully back-scratching cameo. Unbearable cuteness that just about gets away with it.

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