‘Charlie’s Angels’ Review: A Promising Relaunch that Never Takes Flight

It’s 2019. So, of course, that means it’s time for another trip back down memory lane. However, the new Charlie’s Angels isn’t exactly a reboot in the traditional sense. Although the film focuses on new characters, it actually shares continuity with both the 1970s TV series and the 2000s films.

The central premise of Charlie’s Angels has undeniable appeal, especially in today’s world. Discussions around diversity and representation are becoming much more mainstream. So an action thriller following three badass women who are all essentially James Bond feels especially relevant. After all, even 007 himself is changing with the times.

Kristen Stewart, Naomi Scott, and Ella Balinska at the premiere of 'Charlie's Angels'
Kristen Stewart, Naomi Scott, and Ella Balinska at the premiere of ‘Charlie’s Angels’ | Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic

A by-the-numbers plot with a clear point of view

Written and directed by Elizabeth Banks (Pitch Perfect 2), the new Charlie’s Angels takes the basic concept of previous incarnations to a broader scale. The Townsend Agency now has a global presence and seemingly endless resources. But besides countless Angels, weapons, and a boatload of Bosleys, the plot in Charlie’s Angels is fairly prosaic.

In the film, the Angels find themselves hot on the heels of a technological weapon that is about to slip into the wrong hands. It’s up to them to stop the mysterious baddies and uncover the potential traitor in their midst. In that regard, the new film shares a lot of basic trappings with its 2000 counterpart.

Of course, no one going to see a Charlie’s Angels movie is counting on a ground-breaking story. Still, the lack of imagination involved in the Angels’ case — and the staging of the action sequences — is disappointing. If the film had delivered on either a story or spectacle front, then perhaps one element might have elevated the other. No such luck either way, we’re afraid.

The cast — especially Kristen Stewart — is having a blast

Charlie’s Angels might not exactly wow as an action film, but its stars keep the film buoyant regardless. The three leading ladies — Kristen Stewart, Naomi Scott, and Ella Balinska — all turn in solid performances during the action beats. But the film is at its best when the trio is playing off of each other.

The rapport between the three stars of Charlie’s Angels is absolutely key in making the film work. It’s the reason Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz, and Lucy Liu were able to successfully introduce the franchise to a new generation. And Banks’ natural sense of humor shines through in both her script as well as her supporting performance.

In particular, Stewart — by far the most well-known of the film’s heroes — gets most of the film’s best one-liners all to herself. Mainstream audiences used to her melancholic performance in the Twilight films are in for a surprise. Stewart revealed to Collider how much fun making the film was, and the chemistry between the cast comes across on-screen.

‘Charlie’s Angels’ is tonally jumbled but still fun

Banks’ direction also brings a much-needed female perspective to the franchise. While the female empowerment message is a bit heavy-handed at times, Banks is clearly determined to make Charlie’s Angels about something. Therein lies perhaps one of the biggest disconnects for the entire film.

The TV series and earlier films leaned more heavily into the campy elements of the franchise. But the 2019 edition tries a bit too hard to legitimize itself as a straightforward action thriller. The result is a tonally confusing film that will shift from suspense to absurdity in an instant.

While Charlie’s Angels might not offer a wholly satisfying experience, it’s still a ton of fun to watch. Moviegoers interested in a light, breezy time at the movies could do a whole lot worse. But it’s hard to imagine audiences getting excited enough for the film to inspire a sequel. Considering the cast and history of the franchise, it’s a shame Charlie’s Angels will probably not take flight again anytime soon.