This hasn’t been the best year for reboots and what one might consider unnecessary continuations of big budget franchises. After Men in Black: International proved to be a swing and a miss for Sony, concern grew for Charlie’s Angels, and the uninspiring trailers didn’t help. Turns out, however, this might be one of the most pleasant surprises of the year! Not only does Elizabeth Banks prove the brand still has great appeal, but she also adds to it by broadening the scope of the Townsend Agency and introducing three wildly charming new leads.
At the start of the movie, Sabina (Kristen Stewart) and Jane (Ella Balinska) are already full-fledged Angels. Jane’s a former MI-6 Agent who’s efficient and meticulous whereas Sabina’s a bit more brash and has no problem having a little fun while on missions. Despite their different styles, Sabina and Jane are paired together for an assignment to protect Elena (Naomi Scott), the scientist responsible for creating a sustainable energy device called Calisto. Calisto has great potential to make the world a better place but it’s also something that can be weaponized, and Elena can’t stop her bosses from doing that without the help of the Angels.
Charlie’s Angels largely coasts on energy and charisma. The movie is a major improvement from Pitch Perfect 2, but Banks still has a ways to go behind the lens. Charlie’s Angels does have a number of very well constructed visuals, further enhanced by vibrant production design and stunning costumes, but the movie lacks a cohesive style. If you’re eager to figure out what an Elizabeth Banks movie looks like, this one won’t be much help. Her work is more than serviceable here, but the only standout quality is the excitement and passion Banks has for the brand, and that’s true of everyone in the film. Charlie’s Angels is a good time but what makes it a real blast is that it seems like everyone involved truly loved working on the film and that enthusiasm is palpable here.
As far as the main plot goes, the Angels’ assignment isn’t anything especially revolutionary; evil entities are trying to weaponize a genius tech creation. But mission details have always been secondary to the appeal of the leading ladies, and the script finds great success establishing and bringing our three main players together.
As the only non-Angel, Scott plays into Elena’s more bumbling qualities to great effect, including one standout fight scene with some very creative choreography. Stewart crushes it as the comedic relief in the film, delivering a whole batch of winning one-liners and just being an all-around sheer joy to watch in this type of film. And what a blockbuster debut for Balinska; talk about screen presence! She’s got no trouble commanding the frame while doing just about everything from selling Jane as a deadly force to having an amusing meet-cute to effortlessly selling the movie’s sole emotional moment. Bring all three of them together and you recreate what’s also been the heart of the Charlie’s Angels brand, an undeniably entertaining, capable and lovable lead trio.
On top of that, Charlie’s Angels also rocks a phenomenal supporting ensemble with a laundry list of big names that aren’t merely there to up the star power; they’re all extremely well cast and actually make a real impression. Patrick Stewart manages to navigate what could have been a very messy subplot as Bosley. Djimon Hounsou is another Bosley who makes the most of minimal screen time that includes establishing a hefty dose of history and chemistry with Balinska. Noah Centineo boasts a few amusing beasts as one of Elena’s co-workers and Sam Claflin continues to prove he can do just about anything as the company CEO, Alexander Brok. But of all the supporting characters, the one that makes the biggest impression is Jonathan Tucker’s silent assassin, Hodak. He rocks some very welcomed Thin Man (Crispin Glover) vibes, has a killer look and also manages to make Hodak feel like a real threat, upping the suspense of every scene he’s in.
Business is king in Hollywood so the likelihood of getting another Charlie’s Angels movie will probably come down to box office returns, but Banks did exactly what she needed to with this first installment. Charlie’s Angels is a highly entertaining action comedy with a winning “close as sisters” leading trio that also gives a big boost to the network of Angels. If I could have walked straight from this movie into a second installment of this iteration of the franchise, I would have.