The 2019 Charlie’s Angels reboot hits Starz after a stint as a 99 cent rental on other streaming platforms. Ouch? Are we to infer that the difference between watching and not watching the fourth iteration of this franchise — after the original late-’70s TV run, two McG movies in the early ’00s and a flop 2011 TV series — is a price point that’s even cheaper than a pair of reading glasses bought at Dollar Tree? Maybe if you’re a defeatist who feels beat down by the occasional blatant dearth of original ideas in Hollywood. Or maybe this neo-feminist Charlie’s Angels, directed by Elizabeth Banks, ain’t so bad after all.
The Gist: RIO DE JANEIRO, FOR SOME REASON: Sabina Wilson (Kristen Stewart) is on a bad date that turns into a good date because she was actually undercover and it turned into an opportunity for her and fellow kickass ladyspy Jane Kano (Ella Balinska) to pummel some scumbag embezzler types. HAMBURG, INEXPLICABLY: A year later, Elena Houghlin (Naomi Scott) sits in her condescending sexist douchebag boss’ (Nat Faxon) office, listening to him blather on. She helped develop a Very Valuable Thingy that not only will solve the problem of sustainable energy, but it could also kill the shit out of people. She becomes a corporate whistleblower because of the killing bit, and that’s when Charlie’s Angels get involved.
Some background: The Charlie’s Angels squad is now an international conglomerate ring of kickass ladyspies working for multiple Bosleys: One is played by Djimon Hounsou, another by Patrick Stewart, and another by Elizabeth Banks, and there are more I think, but they’re not in the movie. There’s still an unidentified voice over a monitor that doles out orders. The Banks Boz, Sabina and Jane are assigned to protect Elena and get their hands on the Thingy, but it’s missing from the doozitz in the dinglehicky in Elena’s laboratorium after they all don ’70s bowl-cut wigs so they can fool corporate security and also lean towards the camera and wink at us 150 times.
The plot takes them to BERLIN, BECAUSE IT’S A NEAT PLACE, where Elena has sincere buddy convos with the Angels. Then they zip to LONDON, WHY I DON’T KNOW for a traipse through the Official Angel Clothing and Accessory Closets. Next, in ISTANBUL, HEY NICE SCENERY we see plenty of luxury-car logos and watch the Angels get in a hair-raising scuffle at a rock quarry before jetting to CHAMONIX, WHEREVER THAT IS (FRANCE I THINK?) for a neo-disco party and some more fisticuffy-kick-happy bang-bang scrapes.
What Movies Will It Remind You Of?: As far as light-feminist franchise reimaginings go, Charlie’s Angels exists between the perfectly fine Ocean’s 8 (he said, praising faintly) and the desperately unfunny 2016 Ghostbusters.
Performance Worth Watching: Stewart is really the only one here attempting to add color to this bland paste of an action-comedy. She’s been in a half-dozen worthy films since Twilight made her rich; go watch those instead.
Memorable Dialogue: “There are film buffs of all ages!” — Banks Boz dodges the question of her age when she’s the only one in the room who knows who Burt Lancaster is
Sex and Skin: None.
Our Take: It kind of is so bad after all. You’ll want to praise Banks for dispatching the franchise’s male gaze into the past and taking a woke step into the future, but that’s just about the only thing this new Charlie’s Angels gets right. It’s not funny enough, it’s not exhilarating enough, it’s not surprising enough, it’s not campy enough. The dialogue fizzles, the action sequences fizzle, the plot twists fizzle, the characters fizzle. It’s too long, it’s too sloppy, it’s too predictable, it’s too obvious in its fetish for establishing shots of picturesque international cities.
Between occasional stylish moments are several rough patches of road. I may have half-smiled at a Stewart one-liner or two; I almost laughed when Scott (of Aladdin and Power Rangers fame) struck a karate-CHOP! pose. The bad guys have all the charisma of a row of crash-test dummies. This movie should be fun, but it’s a bore. It should go ka-pow, but it just goes ka-splat. It should be a lark, but it’s just a dud. Oh, it also sets up a sequel — ha ha, good one!
Our Call: SKIP IT. Charlie’s Angels Twenty Nineteen is the perfect movie to have on in the background while you catch up on reading all those issues of TV Guide you have laying around.
John Serba is a freelance writer and film critic based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Read more of his work at johnserbaatlarge.com or follow him on Twitter: @johnserba.