Guilty Pleasures: Charlie’s Angels

Well, this may be the point where the true dumb-founded looks come out. But, I must admit, I find the first Charlie’s Angels film a true gulity pleasure; and not in the sense that most people would assume a male would find Charlie’s Angels appealing. Sure, Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz and Lucy Liu are all attractive, but none really – ahem – stoke my fire, but even without that aesthetic impulse I still find this candyfloss blockbuster to be both shamelessly entertaining and rewatchable.

Coming at the tail-end of Hollywood’s craze for adapting TV series into mega-budgeted movies, Charlie’s Angels was something of a pet project for producer and star Drew Barrymore. When those first trailers of the four main players (the girls and Bill Murray doing doing Zoolander‘s patented ‘Blue Steel’) arrived I was both embarassed and oddly intrigued, there was something that managed to carefully – maybe accidentally – bridge the gap between the camp and the self-aware. I had no strong desires to see the film though. Ultimately, I was Christmas shopping in Plymouth and had some time to kill, I stopped by the cinema and the only film on that I hadn’t already watched and was screening in close proximity was Charlie’s Angels. I went in with no preconceptions really, my expectations were neither high nor low, and in the end I had a good time watching the film. Now, let me make that clear, I wasn’t dazzled, nor was I underwhelmed; I had a good time.

I ended up buying the film on DVD, I think I got it at a bargain bucket rate through those awful Britannia video clubs, and I wound up watching it a few times, and was surprised to discover that it actually held its entertaining standard on repeat viewings. What was it about this film that kept it afloat when other TV adaptations, nay, other similarly light-weight popcorn flicks had floundered?

For one Charlie’s Angels has a great cast, beyond it’s leads you’ve got Bill Murray phoning it in as Bosley (but a phoned in Bill Murray is ten times more entertaining than most other comedic actors on their game), there’s the almighty Sam Rockwell who cheekily eschews any kind of character arc but still manages to convince as the fluffy geek and the back-combed villain, he’s accompanied by George McFly himself, the uber-weird Crispin Glover as Creepy Thin Man in a part oddball and effortlessly cool at the same time, not to mention Luke Wilson bringing a dopey charm to his small part as a love-interest, Matt LeBlanc a lampoon of the kind of lunk-headed Hollywood roles he took after Friends, Tim Curry as the hammy red-herring. Sure, everyone’s playing to type, but these types are their strengths.

They’re backed up by money, lots of money, in the production design that is given free reign to reference any and everything it fancies (winks to The Shining and Harry Potter), the cinematography is lush and surprisingly not hampered by MTV editing – though some of the Matrix-isms date the film quite badly, and the soundtrack (alongside Edward Shearmur’s elegant if understated score) is excellent; Marvin Gaye to introduce a villain, a sly nod of The Vapors’ Turning Japanese (not so much a comment on the oriental themed massage parlour), the fantastic hip hop track Simon Says by Pharoahe Monch and, of course, Sir Mix-a-lot!

What is unashamedly the most brash, in your face element of this film is its big cheesy grin, its enormous sense of fun, and I think this is what we have to thank the director McG for. Despite alleged on-set scuffles and such like, the film is coated with a sugary sweet icing of goodness and fun-times that may grate on some, but perfectly encapsulates – without mocking – an innocent sensibility lacking in most of the poe-faced cinema of our modern age. Their really is nothing else out there in contemporary cinema quite like Charlie’s Angels, even the sequel Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle couldn’t recapture that same lunatic charm; as much as I will defend this film I think the follow-up is an unmitigated piece of garbage.

So, there you go, not much of an argument for why Charlie’s Angels is a good film, but, I guess, if you can go with its laidback, dopey charms, there’s a lot of fun to be had although you must definitely feel guilty for any pleasures had – and I feel that is why most people choose to play it safe and say they think the film’s rubbish.

© BRWC 2010.

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Alton loves film. He is founder and Editor In Chief of BRWC.  Some of the films he loves are Rear Window, Superman 2, The Man With The Two Brains, Clockwise, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, Trading Places, Stir Crazy and Punch-Drunk Love.


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