by George Wolf
We’ll know soon enough if there was high demand for a new Charlie’s Angels film. But 16 years after the close of the Drew Barrymore version, Elizabeth Banks apparently thought she could bring the franchise a welcome freshness.
She was right, mostly.
As writer, director and co-star, she’s a Banks of all trades, and just one of the Bosleys assisting a team of Angels. In this Charlie universe, “Bosley” is a rank, not a name, with famous faces such as Patrick Stewart, Djimon Hounsou and even Michael Strahan as some manner of Boz.
But it is Banks’s Bosley that is on the case when Angels Sabina (Kristen Stewart) and Jane (Ella Balinska) must protect Elena (Naomi Scott), a brilliant systems engineer who stands between bad guys and some lethal new technology.
Even with its updated vibe, Banks’s vision seems more in line with the original TV series (12 year-old me was a big fan). Barrymore’s films did bring some charm, but too often treated style as weapon of submission. The feeling this time is more of an easygoing wink-wink, with plenty of callbacks to franchise history and some well-staged battle angel set pieces.
There’s plenty of girl power, too, and while these Angels aren’t first to that party, they fit in quite nicely. They value friendships, they own their sexuality without being sexualized, they’re skilled, strong and always ready to rib each other about awkward flirting or a love of cheese.
Even with the surprises and fake outs it holds, the spy story is a bit too slight to support a full two hours. But, no surprise, it is worth staying for credits that offer plenty of smile-inducing cameos.
Banks deals plenty of hands with Charlie’s Angels, overplaying none but the running time. So while it’s not a laugh riot, it is self-aware and amusing, its action heavy without undue disbelief and it feels like a reboot we needed, whether we realized it or not.