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Elizabeth Banks And Kristen Stewart Are An Odd Fit For “Charlie’s Angels”

On the surface, now seems like the absolute perfect time to reboot Charlie’s Angels. Hollywood is always hoping to find the next big franchise, female led vehicles are in demand, and it’s all the better when handed to a director who happens not to be a man. And yet, this 2019 incarnation of Charlie’s Angels, coming to us from actress turned filmmaker Elizabeth Banks, feels stuck in the past. Aside from a few amusingly sly remarks about gender equality, much of this movie is the sort of generic action outing that would have been attempted throughout the last few decades. There are fun moments, but the vast majority of the flick is thoroughly disposable.

The film is an action adventure, based on the television series and two cinematic outings of the same name. Once again, we’re introduced to operatives of the Townsend Agency, known as Angels, working under the direction of a leader known only as Charlie. As one Bosley (Patrick Stewart) retires, another (Djimon Hounsou) is put in charge of a new operation. Called into action when a young systems engineer named Elena Houghlin (Naomi Scott) tries blows the whistle on a dangerous clean energy invention at her company, things immediately go haywire. Elena is rescued by two Angels in Jane Kano (Ella Balinska) and Sabina Wilson (Stewart). Along with a former Angel turned Bosley (Banks), the women must protect Elena, figure out what’s going on, and save the day. Banks directs and wrote the screenplay (with Story By credits going to David Auburn and Evan Spiliotopoulos). Brian Tyler composed the score, while the cinematography is by Bill Pope. Supporting players include Noah Centineo, Sam Claflin, Nat Faxon, Luis Gerardo Méndez, Chris Pang, and Jonathan Tucker, as well as a handful of cameos.

It’s fair to wonder why Banks chose to take this on as her next big project. At least with Stewart, a chance to let loose clearly had some appeal. The moments where there’s silly fun on display, as well as the girl power flights of fancy, those work. However, a multitude of bland action scenes, a plot that’s both needless convoluted as well as achingly simple, alongside a lack of anything new cripple this flick. As big studio effort for them both, I suppose it was very profitable. Creatively, there’s not a whole lot here worthy of their talents. Banks’ future behind the camera is still bright, but this one is a misfire.

Charlie’s Angels is undone by overly extended fight sequences, a generic storyline, plus an inability to focus on the parts that actually generate some goodwill and smiles. Elizabeth Banks is a capable director and her writing is on point when it’s not focused on the action/adventure elements, but this is a poor fit for her. Moreover, the chemistry between Ella Balinska, Naomi Scott, and Kristen Stewart is only middling, at best. Banks gives herself a decent role as well, and she’s fun, but the likes of Djimon Hounsou and Patrick Stewart are wasted.

This week, we’ll find out if the name Charlie’s Angels still has any juice left in it when this new movie version comes out. As a crowd pleasing bit of camp, it could very well have a place still in the market. As a quality film, however? I was left wanting a lot more. The cast is talented and Banks has a solid eye behind the camera, but it never came together here. Perhaps your mileage will vary? Feel free to decide for yourself, but with so many other terrific options hitting screens by Friday, it seems hard to imagine giving your time and money to something as mediocre as this.

Charlie’s Angels hits theaters this weekend.

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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