Neil Young’s Film Lounge – Charlie’s Angels
dir McG (i.e. Joseph McGinty Nichol)
scr Ryan Rowe, Ed Solomon, John August
cin Russell Carpenter
stars Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore, Lucy Liu, Bill Murray
Charlies Angels is a fun picture, a laugh. Credibility and coherence aren’t on the radar – the approach is much more Austin Powers than Mission Impossible, which is just as well, given that any kind of straight update of the half-forgotten original TV show would surely have been a recipe for disaster. There are the occasional blips, but on the whole its remarkable how much McG gets spot on, considering this is his first feature film its a brash, bold, very visual debut, and he never lets you forget who’s the star of the show. So it isn’t a major problem that none of the three Angels are any great shakes, especially since they share the screen with the the likes of Murray, Tim Curry, Luke Wilson, Kelly Lynch and, best of all, Crispin Glover. Even an LL Cool J cameo is carried off with unexpected panache. All of these welcome faces could perhaps have been given more to do, but hats off to McG for having the nous to cast them in the first place.
Double hats off for picking Glover. Its always a treat to see this unique talent on the big screen, and its even more satisfying to see him working with a director who understands that he’s not like any other actor something Neil Labute failed to grasp in Nurse Betty. McG, on the other hand, makes better wittier – use of Glover than any director since David Lynch, casting him a wordless henchman referred to only as creepy thin man, and turning him into a kind of walking special effect. Hes the star of the first big set piece fight scene, as the Angels kick his ass in a Chinatown alley to the ironic, raucous accompaniment of The Prodigys Smack My Bitch Up. The ageless Glovers angular face and body whip and skim through the air, and although he’s manipulated Matrix-style, he still delivers the years funniest, most precise physical performance, rivalled only by Willem Dafoes jerky Max Schreck in Shadow of the Vampire.
This reviews emphasis on Glover may seem odd, given that he’s essentially a minor though massively enjoyable element of a big, big movie. But this is one of those review-proof big, big movies. It is what it is, it does what its supposed to do, and does it so surprisingly well that any criticism seems like carping for its own sake. OK, so there isnt much plot its all about a nerdy computer billionaire (Sam Rockwell) who turns out to be not such a nerd after all and we could do with less of the Angels lame boyfriends (Tom Green, Barrymores beau in the movie and in real life, is fatally indulged), and there are some bits that just don’t work (the Angels posing as Swiss serenaders; Diaz doing an odd dance at a hip nightclub; Barrymore moonwalking) but the pacing is so quick there’s no time to dwell on anything too negative. Theres always something around the corner, some little directorial flourish, some little bit of inspired business from Glover, that makes the whole thing seem worthwhile.
by Neil Young