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'Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle'

Charlie's Angels stall in 'Full Throttle'

Friday, June 27, 2003

By Ron Weiskind, Post-Gazette Movie Editor

You know a movie is really bad when:

Bernie Mac can't find a way to be funny in it.

Demi Moore gives the best acting performance.

John Cleese can't find a way to be funny in it.

The stunts are as incoherent as the screenplay.

You leave the theater thinking you've just watched nearly two hours of music videos -- the forte of the director, McG (aka Joseph McGinty Nichol), who also made the first "Charlie's Angels" movie.

'Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle'

RATING: PG-13 for action violence, sensuality and language/innuendo.

STARRING: Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore, Lucy Liu, Demi Moore, Bernie Mac.



"Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle" isn't a movie so much as a pastiche. Imagine MTV covering the X-Games on Mars, where gravity doesn't matter so much and, apparently, you can jump off high bridges, fall off speeding cars or crash one through the wall of a building and suffer nothing more than a few bruises.

In other words, "Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle" looks too much like this year's version of last year's worst movie, "Rollerball," a mind-numbing film in which people playing basketball on motorcycles try to avoid their employer's attempts to kill them (it's not supposed to make sense).

When our sexy title heroines (Cameron Diaz, Lucy Liu and Drew Barrymore) join a no-rules motocross race in pursuit of an assassin chasing his prey, you might not be able to tell the difference -- especially when they take the time to perform stunts on each jump and the bad guy kicks any rider in his way into the nearest solid object.

There is just enough of a mean streak in the movie to leech out the fun that made the first "Charlie's Angels" entertaining despite its extreme silliness. This one pushes even further, going over the top both figuratively and literally until it exhausts you.

Granted, the movie's opening sequence makes it obvious that we are not supposed to take the movie seriously -- and that the filmmakers certainly don't. It takes place in a crowded Mongolian bar filled with large, swarthy men.

The Angels wear disguises, kick butt, dodge bullets in slow-motion wirework jumps (repeated so often that you get tired of it, especially in a few scenes where computer graphics turn the characters into blobs) and drive off a bridge in a truck that just happens to contain a helicopter that they all manage to jump into and fly away in before hitting the ground.

And so it goes. The threadbare plot (the screenplay is by John August and Cormac and Marianne Wibberley) involves the theft of two titanium rings containing the coded identities of everyone in the Witness Protection Program (yeah, that makes sense). There is also an even more threadbare attempt to give each of the Angels a back story -- Alex (Liu) was a champion gymnast and chess prodigy, Dylan (Barrymore) was a professional wrestler and monster-truck driver, Natalie (Diaz) was -- well, what she is, a wide-eyed ditz.

Bernie Mac is Bosley, the brother of the character played by Bill Murray in the first movie (funny idea, at least). Bernie Mac is at his best starting trouble, but here he's largely a recipient, more's the pity.

Moore, as a former Angel gone bad, gives the movie its only real bite, especially when she tells Charlie (as always, John Forsythe's voice on a speakerphone) what she thinks of him. She has delusions of playing a real character and plays the role with a welcome sarcasm. Being Moore, she also shows off her body (then again, in this movie who doesn't, and I'm not complaining). She can still give the younger women a run for their money.

But none of this seems to matter as much as the music-video set pieces, playing "spot the celebrity" (Carrie Fisher as a nun, Pink as the Motocross starter and cameos by everyone from Moore's ex, Bruce Willis, to former TV Angel Jaclyn Smith), repeating bits from the first movie (Diaz shaking her booty right into the camera) and engaging in smarmy double-entendres that make Alex's dad (Cleese) think she's a hooker. He spends the movie looking appalled. I know how he feels.

Ron Weiskind can be reached at rweiskind@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1581.

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