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Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle

  Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle
"No more questions about 'Feeling Minnesota.'"
Cameron Diaz reaches her boiling point.

© 2003, Columbia
All Rights Reserved

Good lord! Who needs coffee now that we have a new "Charlie's Angels" film?

After rescuing a U.S. Marshal (Robert Patrick) from deep in the heart of Mongolia, the Angels, sweet Natalie (Cameron Diaz), crafty Alex (Lucy Liu) and dangerous Dylan (Drew Barrymore), have returned to their California offices to break in the new Bosley (Bernie Mac, a nice replacement for the absent Bill Murray). Trouble boils over when an Irish gangster, and previous flame of Dylan's, is released from prison (Justin Theroux, "Mulholland Drive") looking for revenge. Concurrently, a former "fallen" Angel named Madison Lee (Demi Moore) attempts to organize an operation that will bring her two titanium rings that hold the info of every person held under the federal witness protection program. And with that crucial information comes the opportunity to kill them off, one by one.

The original "Charlie's Angels," released back in 2000, was much more than an unexpected smash at the box office; it was a film that held alarming quality for such a popcorn romp. I went into the picture back then with arms folded, expecting that disappointment was a feeling I would have in spades. However, as soon as Crispin Glover's "Creepy Thin Man" character (a role he recreates for the sequel) cart-wheeled through a narrow gap between closed iron gates, and Prodigy's "Smack My Bitch Up" began to blare on the soundtrack, my senses came alive. For the next 90 minutes, I was completely taken by director McG's frenzied vision and the three lead actresses who looked as though they were having the time of their lives. I simply adored "Charlie's Angels," and I hoped McG wasn't going to ruin the fun with an indulgent sequel. All he had to do was focus on the features that made the original such a welcome kick in the teeth.

In "Full Throttle" (IMDb listing), McG does exactly that. The new film is a raging, out of control house fire that isn't put out until the last flicker of celluloid passes through the projector. While other summer films pretend they're a blast of adrenaline and delight (*cough* "2 Fast 2 Furious" *cough*), "Full Throttle" just is, without breaking a sweat. McG has learned the formula for these films very quickly, and he brings on another onslaught of one-liners, swirling asses and the very latest in fashion and design. He is cocked and loaded to the gills with more money and an even bigger desire to outdo himself, which for a former music video director means one thing: extravagance beyond measure. McG throws every conceivable detail into "Full Throttle," whether it's the film's supporting actors and cameos (Luke Wilson and Matt LeBlanc return, joining John Cleese, Bruce Willis, "Jackass'" Chris Pontius, Pink, the Olsen twins, and an "Angel" from a past life), the many film and television parodies or homages ("Cape Fear," "Flashdance," "C.S.I."), or the opulence he gives to Los Angeles—going so far as to use a Hollywood film premiere as the location for the film's climax. McG also brings in the hippest in sports to find his set pieces, including a "Matrixesque" shootout at a motocross track, and Alex's attempt at street-luging to trail one of bad guys. "Full Throttle" is an exceedingly busy film, whereas "Angels" was simply trying on different tones and styles to see what fit. Thankfully, McG never permits the film to be crushed under its own weight. The picture is far too swift and lovable for that. Though it cannot repeat the fortunate element of surprise that "Angels" had in its favor, it does match the previous film in entertainment value and highly caloric PG-13 eye candy.

In a weird reversal of tone, McG has taken away the individuality of the fight scenes and pumped them into the dramatic subplots. Gone are the pure moments of slap fight ecstasy found in the original, like Dylan's one-woman symphonic "That's what they call kicking your ass!" throw down. In "Full Throttle," the action is staged much more claustrophobically, utilizing more teamwork and emphasizing more CGI and less "wire fu." Because McG is such a breathless filmmaker, the picture is never held down by its extravagances, and he balances the fists of fury with an expanded storyline. This go around, McG often breaks up the team to pursue their own plot threads, which allows each Angel much more character time. The pursuit of a slightly more profound character understanding shows growth and care within a film that can't be bothered with such things. "Full Throttle" might not have pivotal fight scenes to define itself (though Madison's tussle with the Angels on the roof of the Griffith Park Observatory comes awfully close), but the action is still marvelous to watch, and McG keeps it all in check with his large sense of humor and frantic eye.

Boy, if they could find a way to siphon the energy off of Cameron Diaz's smile, we wouldn't face another energy crisis ever again. While the "Angels" films feature three leading ladies, it is Diaz and her endless beaming smile and dork affectation that keep the films alive. More fun here than any other movie she's done, Diaz is the shining million-watt bulb within the free-for-all style of "Full Throttle." Drew Barrymore has the delicious tough chick role down pat, and Lucy Liu is growing more confident with her comedy, but Diaz is the glowing center of the trio. Even when McG has her on a men's room toilet during one scene, she's still the most radiant thing on God's green earth.

Much has been made about Demi Moore's return to the big screen after a three year absence. Her role is actually quite a bit smaller than reported, but she eats up the screen nonetheless, with a performance where she clearly revels in playing bad. Glammed up even more than the leads, Moore is dazzling to behold. "Full Throttle" is a nice homecoming for the oft-misused actress.

"Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle" ends on a rather peculiar family-comes-together note that hints aggressively that this might be it for the Angels and their adventures. I hope that isn't the case. These films, as glossy and devoid of nutritional value as they might arguably be, are blisteringly fun to enjoy, and "Full Throttle" doesn't skip a beat in continuing the Angel party.

Filmfodder Grade: A

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