McG’s zippy contraption Charlie’s Angels remains one of the more maligned blockbusters of the last few years, a self-aware, crazy-sexy-cool homage to the unintentionally kitschy, sexist ’70s show that put Farrah Fawcett on the map (and on the walls of every heterosexual teenage boy across the country). When pin-ups Fawcett, Jaclyn Smith, and Kate Jackson were written into a tough spot, their enslavement and subsequent emancipation fed into all sorts of male-defined fantasies. In casting Drew Barrymore and Cameron Diaz for the film version, the filmmakers allowed their Angels to be both subversively playful and physically empowered. Lucy Liu’s blank-faced dominatrix and her delirious crack-that-whip routine enforced the notion that these millennium Angels weren’t so much holding the male fantasy hostage as they were defining it on their own terms.
Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle is merely a preposterous, maximized manipulation of the original film’s winning formula. The ludicrous script follows Alex Munday (Liu), Dylan Sanders (Barrymore) and Natalie Cook (Diaz) as they search for two rings that reveal the identities of persons belonging to the government’s witness relocation program. After a series of run-ins with shady lowlifes, they get to girl-fight with ex-Angel Madison Lee (a sexy but god-awful Demi Moore, outperformed at every turn by her vampy, dual-purpose couture and pinky accessories). If Moore is forced to carry the weight of the film’s emotional excess baggage, poor Bernie Mac appears solely to maximize the script’s racial quotas. In the end, though, his Friday-gone-bad shtick is every bit as tired and hapless as the endless double entendres that subjugate the film’s supposedly empowered gals.
Full Throttle is every bit as soulless as the obviously hollowed-out Sony Trinitron television set we’re supposed to believe Lui can carry for an extended period of time. It’s edited with attention-deficit and every choreographed whip-of-the-head or blink-of-the-eye is curiously accompanied by bizarre sound cues (barnyard animals figure prominently). Justin Theroux and Rodrigo Santoro are dutifully objectified and they’re certainly up to the task, but what’s the purpose of having Theroux walk through a wall of flames without even his hair catching fire? Sure, the film’s hunky men and super divas are every bit as plastic as your average action figure, but since when did they evolve into machines? If there’s one mitigating factor amid this very busy shit storm it’s Crispin Glover, who makes a hysterical return-appearance as hair fetishist The Thin Man.
The first film was a svelte accumulation of gooey action sequences and goofy, retro musical numbers. But when the filmmakers aren’t unsuccessfully approximating the original’s funniest bits, they’re over-exhausting their celluloid. Every prefab image in the film has been seemingly filtered through dozens of effect generators. As a result, the final image resembles a decrepit eigth generation of the original. Nowhere is this more evident than a nonsensical excite-bike sequence where the Angels defy more than the laws of gravity. Here, they disobey the natural order of time, space, and common sense. Perhaps then the title of Full Throttle’s film-within-a-film, Maximum Extreme 2, is meant to be taken as a lazy, self-aware excuse for this monstrosity’s very existence. During the film’s opening set piece, the Angels dodge military missiles before falling off a bridge on a truck that conveniently affords them a getaway chopper. What’s more pathetic: the fact that you can’t make anything out behind the infinite layers of CGI or that the filmmakers are so hard-up to one-up the original’s feral, seamless opener?