Charlie’s Angels movie review: Kristen Stewart is stuck in a joyless exercise

Kristen Stewart, Ella Balinska and Naomi Scott in Charlie's Angels
Kristen Stewart, Ella Balinska and Naomi Scott in Charlie’s Angels, courtesy of Sony

19 years ago, McG reinvented Charlie’s Angels as a movie. In 2000 that meant it reflected the ethos of the millennium. Action scenes utilized Hong Kong style wirework popularized by The Matrix, and a cheeky self-referential tone.

In 2019, Charlie’s Angels still reflects the modern era of moviemaking. Unfortunately this Charlie’s Angels didn’t copy the incredible style of action movies like John Wick or Mad Max: Fury Road. It copied the filmed too close, too shaky and chopped together style of the usual studio action films. That’s Charlie’s Angels for 2019, all right.

Charlie's Angels 2019
Charlie’s Angels 2019, courtesy of Sony

Perhaps one of the biggest problems is that Charlie’s Angels aren’t even a team when this movie begins. Sabina (Kristen Stewart, or K-Stew for short) is seducing a bad guy when the Bosley (Patrick Stewart, or P-Stew for short)‘s team busts in to capture him, led by Jane (Ella Balinska).

Sabina and Jane don’t even like each other, but they’re not reluctant allies. They literally don’t even work together for another year. And at this point you may notice another glaring problem, there are only two angels.

The third in the trio is Elena (Naomi Scott) who works for a tech company designing a device called Calisto. Elena warns the company that Calisto could be used for evil if it falls into the wrong hands, yadda yadda yadda, Sabina and Jane have to protect Elena from assassins.

Kristen Stewart in Charlie's Angels
Kristen Stewart undercover in Charlie’s Angels, courtesy of Sony

Charlie’s Angels doesn’t have to be a sendup again like the 2000 version and its sequel, but it has to have a tone. Another characteristic of modern films is a lack of vision. Charlie’s Angels is another studio movie that just does everything with no intention. It’s like not having a take on the material is your take.

The angels sometimes kill enemies brutally, or alternatively disarm others whimsically. You can’t really do both unless you have a really great idea about why some get one punishment and others don’t. They wear flamboyant costumes while they fight and kill but it’s not really deadpan about the absurdity. It’s all just there.

Also, have Charlie’s Angels ever killed before? I know they always got the bad guy at the end of the movies, but did they brutally kill henchmen along the way? Admittedly I didn’t watch the TV series so if it was gritty bloodshed on prime time, feel free to correct me.

Kristen Stewart in Charlie's Angels
Kristen Stewart in Charlies Angels, courtesy of Sony

Any hints at a smart modern take are abandoned. Sabina checks out women while she cavorts scantily clad in front of the camera. Now, that’s major to have a lesbian heroine with the libido of James Bond (and the impulse control of Ace Ventura). Sabina unfortunately drops that bit for the bulk of the movie, preoccupied by betrayals and evil plans that do not need this much explanation.

This Charlie’s Angels is in continuity, or retcon at least, via a very stupid Photoshop joke. Seeing previous iconic outfits in the Townsend Agency closet is a better reference but it’s too little too late at that point.

Kristen Stewart, Ella Balinska and Naomi Scott
Kristen Stewart, ;Ella Balinska and Naomi Scott in Charlie’s Angels, courtesy of Sony

The film doesn’t even open with the Charlie’s Angels theme. It’s just modern music over a montage of young girls and extreme female athletes. If the point was empowerment, no connection was made to the proceedings in the film. Again, it’s just there.

The music in McG’s movies were throwbacks used ironically. If the modern music in this Charlie’s Angels has a theme, I can’t tell because every single track sounds exactly the same. I know I’m middle aged, but if every song is trance/club music then what is it besides a lazy beat for the editing.

Ella Balinska and Kristen Stewart
Ella Balinska and Kristen Stewart star in Charle’s Angels, courtesy of Sony

There is a dance number in this Charlie’s Angels but it’s when they’re infiltrating a party so it’s just part of the plot. It’s like they knew they needed a dance number but forgot to have fun. 2000’s Charlie’s Angels had Cameron Diaz dancing in her underwear as an overt callout of the film and films like it ogling its stars, and Diaz was in on it. Nothing in this Charlie’s Angels is that self-aware.

Another trait of 2019 movies is Charlie’s Angels does not know when to end. This is an era where length doesn’t matter. They’ll have five screens per multiplex so can still fit in all their showtimes and never have to trim a Batman reference or exposition.

Charlie’s Angels is in theaters Friday, November 15.

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