Perhaps not since “Star Trek” has a franchise had such a long, unbroken continuity across multiple TV series and movies. This latest “Charlie’s Angels” incarnation is just that, a continuation, with the only erasure of the past being of Bill Murray and, to a lesser extent, Bernie Mac.
As Bosley prepares to bid farewell to the Townsend Agency, which has now expanded to an international network, and enjoy his retirement, the agency takes on a new case involving a revolutionary new technology which could become a terrible weapon in the wrong hands.
There are, of course, a few modern flourishes in this update, the most notable of which is the globalisation of the Townsend Agency, giving us a Charlie’s Angels by way of “Kingsman”. It’s a slick, modern take on the franchise, clearly taking influences from the aforementioned “Kingsman” as well as “Mission: Impossible” although in its eagerness to modernise, it throws a bunch of technobabble and buzzwords at a MacGuffin in the hopes that something will stick. Of course, there’s more to the case than meets the eye and it’s a little disappointing that, for the third movie in a row the story falls back on the ‘enemy within’ subplot to keep things moving along.
Unfortunately, the modern polish seems to have buffed away any sense of camp fun the series is famed for. While Naomi Scott, Kristen Stewart and Ella Balinska are clearly enjoying the action hi-jinks, nobody in the supporting cast seems to be having that much fun – except perhaps Patrick Stewart, but then he’s probably just savouring the irony of picking up a paycheque for playing a legend who’s bitter about old age forcing retirement upon him. Even Banks herself seem unusually subdued.
It lacks the wit and energy I’d expect from writer/ director Elizabeth Banks and the film always feels like its pulling its punches instead of having the courage of its convictions. The fight scenes never quite ignite in the way you’d expect and in its general tone, it’s careful to not be so feminist as to alienate the action bros of its potential audience but then again it’s not quite feminist enough to satisfy anyone who’s not a die-hard MRA. It’s almost after the manic excess of “Pitch Perfect 3” she was deliberately holding back in an attempt to deliver a more serious action movie whereas the demented energy she brought to Fat Amy’s story is exactly the feel she should have aimed for here.
It’s still a decent action movie and a solid if unspectacular chapter for “Charlie’s Angels”. I mean, nobody wants “Full Throttle” levels of insanity but it would have been great if they could have brought the vivacity and exuberance of the closing training montage and parade of cameos to the rest of the movie.