Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle (2003) roars off the starting line but floods the engine and eventually stalls

“Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle” somehow manages to be simultaneously more empowered and more misogynistic than its predecessor, eloquently underlining the oxymoronic nature of this muddled, near chimeric sequel which occasionally hits higher hights than the 2000 movie but all too often plumbs deeper depths until it winds up in a wildly incoherent and out of control third act where the various ferociously competing plotlines crash into each other.

Tasked with recovering the code rings which protect access to the witness protection database, the Angels (Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz and Lucy Liu) must face up to the secrets of the past and the possibilities of the future if they hope to prevent any more murders.

With Bill Murray refusing to return following the well-publicised production disagreements of the first movie, the role of Bosley is taken over by Bernie Mac and the overengineered explanation of the switch involving Bosley’s extended family is actually one of the more graceful acrobatics the storytelling pulls off as it tries to keep the runaway express train of a plot on the tracks.

Early on in the production process, there were two distinct plots being considered for the follow-up and in the end, instead of holding one back for a potential third movie, there seems to have been a decision to simply mash both plots together and hope for the best. Compared to this, the original “Charlie’s Angels” looks like work of Chekhovian scriptwriting perfection. Stunts and set pieces abut each other with scarcely any semblance of coherence and consistency while the performance levels vary wildly across the cast.

The eponymous trinity are as good as ever and embrace the insanity of each action or disguise set-piece with infectious glee and at the very lest the guest stars are still having fun. Demi Moore as ex-Angel Madison Lee makes for a great foil for our heroines and really would have been enough of a villain to hold the movie together. Adding too much to the mix are side stories for each of the Angels to work through. Natalie (Diaz) must decide on whether to take her relationship with boyfriend Pete (Luke Wilson) to the next level, which is kind of cute but the side-story of John Cleese coming to believe his beloved daughter Alex (Lucy Liu) is some kind of high-class BDSM specialist is just awful and not helped by a charisma-free performance from Matt LeBlanc. Dylan (star/ producer Drew Barrymore) has two subplots to contend with: her fear over losing her friends as their lives move on and, of course, the return of Justin Theroux’s scenery-chewing Seamus O’Grady whose character feels forced and woefully underdeveloped.

To be fair, for the first two thirds the movie just about holds together and it’s fun to celebrity spot as Carrie Fisher, Pink, Bruce Willis, The Olsen Sisters, Jaclyn Smith and an impossibly young-looking Shia LaBeouf join in the fun but everything flies apart in a finale which tries to tie all of these disparate elements together in a satisfying way but just ends up a jumbled, incoherent and interminable mess.

It’s still silly, sexy fun but it’s both a shame and no surprise that after this, it would be more than fifteen years before the Angels took flight again.

5/10

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