The new Charlie’s Angels movie is not quite a reboot. Or a sequel. Or even a reimagining of the classic franchise. It’s more of a continuation, expansion and rebranding of the female-driven crime drama that launched a thousand magazine covers and at least one iconic hairstyle when the detective series premiered in 1976 with Jill Munroe (Farrah Fawcett), Sabrina Duncan (Kate Jackson) and Kelly Garrett (Jaclyn Smith) employing a combination of beauty, brains, bikinis and athletic prowess to chase down bad guys. Angels came and went over the course of the series, which lasted five seasons and later spawned two harmless yet forgettable big-screen adaptations, Charlie’s Angels (2000) and Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle (2003) featuring Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore and Lucy Liu, and directed by McG.
Charlie’s Angels (2019) pays homage to all that came before it, while modernizing and expanding the brand, and introducing a new group of angels for a new generation. It doesn’t suck; but no need to rush out and see it.
Elizabeth Banks (Pitch Perfect 2) directed the film, wrote the screenplay, and carved out a co-starring role for herself as one of multiple “Bosleys” who guide teams of angels kicking butt around the globe as employees of the Townsend security and detective agency run by the mysterious, never-seen Charles Townsend.
The plot is totally beside the point… something to do with a new, high-tech energy gadget that has a flaw that could allow some nefarious types to use it as a deadly weapon. A brilliant young product engineer, Elena Houghlin (Naomi Scott, Aladdin) raises a red flag, and ends up with a target on her back and assassin on her tail. But she’s got two of Charlie’s top angels on her side – the spunky and sexy Sabina Wilson (Kristen Stewart, Twilight, Clouds of Sils Maria), and the far more serious former MI-6 agent Jane Kano (Ella Balinska in her breakout role). They are aided by a trio of Bosleys (Banks, Djimon Hounsou, and Patrick Stewart) and a Q-like guru nicknamed Saint (Luis Gerardo Méndez) who serves as the angels’ nutritionist, healer, shrink, and stylist.
Charlie’s Angels is a celebration of girl power. It’s a bit like Mission Impossible meets Oceans 8 with a hint of Terminator and Pitch Perfect added to the mix. There’s loads of action, wardrobe changes, inexplicable double-crosses and plot holes, and just enough comedy to make it entertaining without turning into a farce. Kristen Stewart in particular nails the humor, getting all the best lines and delivering them with angelic precision.
The movie acknowledges the 40-year heritage of the Angels with subtle and not-so-subtle winks and nods – and a Jaclyn Smith cameo – to satisfy those of us old enough to remember the original series, while also setting up a potential continuation of the continuation. This new Charlie’s Angels is amusing, contemporary, nostalgic, and ultimately – like its big-screen predecessors – easily forgettable. It’s entertaining in the moment though, and features a hip, all-female soundtrack with Ariana Grande, Miley Cyrus and Lana Del Rey. If the movie does well (enough) at the box office, or on demand down the road, these Angels could potentially rise again.
Note: a final scene plays out over the first part of the credits, with some additional fun cameos.