Way back in 2000, in my review of the first big-screen version of the Charlie’s Angels franchise, I called it ‘a light and fluffy popcorn action movie’. In the 2003 sequel, the filmic popcorn has been re-engineered Homer Simpson style: plutonium has been heavy handedly injected into its core making the whole thing bigger, faster, with a dizzyingly vibrant glow but also making it ominously unstable! Director McG (aka Joseph McGinty Nicol) has delved even further into his music video clip background and given the whole film the frantic pace usually applied when a filmmaker only has three minutes to wow the audience.
The ever-so-vague plot has the Angels investigating the theft of the Witness Protection database by a cavalcade of foes culminating in the villainous golden gun wielding ‘fallen angel’ Madisson Lee, played by Demi Moore (who looked so sculpted in her bikini that I suspect her body is now just a pastiche of botox injections!). Of course, Natalie (Cameron Diaz), Dylan (Drew Barrymore) and Alex (Lucy Liu) manage to hold their own in spectacularly choreographed kung-fu wire-work fight scenes. The wonderfully iconic Crispin Glover makes a welcome return as the eerie Thin Man, and a number of cameos, including 70s TV Angel Kelly Garrett (Jaclyn Smith) and the Olson twins in a future Angels sequence. The standout cameo, though, has to be Bruce Willis, whose character is killed off by Demi Moore’s Madisson Lee, showing that at least these two Hollywood exes have a sense of humour about the publicity surround their divorce! The jokes are there for filmbuffs, too, with references to everything from The Sound of Music to Scream 2 to Flashdance to the best Cape Fear ripoff since Sideshow Bob in The Simpsons. CSI gets a hammering, too, with Diaz’s crime-scene investigator disguise reminiscent of her less Barbie-like look in Being John Malkovich. Indeed, the sense of humour of the film about its own excesses is one of the most endearing things about Full Throttle: Alex’s boyfriend Jason (reprised by Matt LeBlanc) is even starring in a film ironically titled Ultimate Extreme 2! And poor Dylan is the butt of far too many jokes when it’s revealed that before entering witness protection, her real name was Helen Zass.
While the rollercoaster ride of a film is definitely a thrill a minute, a few of the changes from the original formula let the team down. Bernie Mac’s take on Bosley just ain’t up to the level of Bill Murray (whose Sumo wrestling scene with Tim Curry in the first film was one of my favourites). Even the quintessential English gag-man John Clesse seems out of place; his role as Alex’s father provides far too long a break in a film driven by what Evan Williams in The Australian calls ‘hyperkinetic’ action. Despite these momentary lapses, Charlie’s Angels II: Full Throttle succeeds for the most part in being a furiously fast and funny film, even if a little flawed.