Charlie’s Angels Review: The Biggest Surprise of the Year
It all started on September 22, 1976, when Charlie’s Angels premiered on ABC. The show was a hit and aired for five seasons until its cancelation in 1981. Nineteen years later, in 2000, Charlie’s Angels came back to life on the big screen, with a whole new cast. The film grossed $264 million worldwide. That success led to Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle, which ended up making nearly as much as the original ($259 million worldwide). There were numerous attempts to bring Charlie’s Angels back to the small screen, however, all of them failed to spark interest or find an audience.
This brings me to this new reiteration of Charlie’s Angels, written and directed by Elizabeth Banks. The film is actually a continuation of the film franchise that began in 2000. The Townsend Agency is responsible for Charlie’s Angels and has now gone global. With teams of Angels around the world, this film focuses on Sabina Wilson (Kristen Stewart) and Jane Kano (Ella Balinska), two angels assigned to protect Elena Houghlin (Naomi Scott), after she discovers that a green energy device called Calisto can be used as a weapon of mass destruction. Elena must work alongside Sabina, Jane, and Bosley (Elizabeth Banks) to steal the Calisto prototypes before it ends up in the wrong hands.
Despite being familiar, I’ve never had a strong attachment to Charlie’s Angels. However, that has all changed thanks to this film. I walked into the theater with lukewarm expectations and came out loving it. Charlie’s Angels is the biggest surprise of the year. It is the type of studio flick I wish we could see more of – an action-comedy perfectly blurring the lines of two genres on a modest budget.
I will be the first to admit that I had my doubts Banks would be able to pull off directing an action movie, but she proved me wrong. Banks deserves a ton of credit as a director but also as a writer. This is only her second feature film and her first as a screenwriter. She managed to take a beloved franchise like Charlie’s Angels and make it her own, bringing the story as well as some of its characters into modern times.
Banks’ script is sharp and very funny. A scene where the ladies are talking about Birdman was absolutely hysterical. Another great scene that was not only well written but cleverly shot featured the ladies wearing the same wig while inside of Brock Industries. Banks shows so much promise as a writer and director with this project, and I am honestly very excited to see what she does next. I certainly wouldn’t mind it being a sequel to this movie.
In addition to the smart script and solid direction, Banks has ensembled quite the cast for this new saga of Charlie’s Angels. I have been a massive Kristen Stewart fan since Speak, so it is refreshing to see her in a studio film where she gets to have fun and be pushed outside of her comfort zone. Stewart has had quite an impressive career as a dramatic actress in the indie world, but I believe Charlie’s Angels could make her a household name once again.
She’s so great in this film, stealing nearly every scene she’s in. Stewart is naturally shy, and that only adds to the fun of Sabina as a character. While snarky, sexy, and sarcastic, she is often shown struggling to connect with others. The more time Sabina spends around Jane and Elena, however, the easier it is for her to connect. This is great for the film and the viewer, as there is genuine growth of her character as the movie goes on.
As for Naomi Scott, she only continues to impress. I loved her as Kimberly in Power Rangers and thought she was one of the best things about the live-action Aladdin remake. Scott has a very natural on-screen presence and seems to be able to play any role she is given. While there are certain similarities to Elena and Jasmine in Aladdin, I loved seeing Scott make the transition from being the smart and quiet “girl next door” to eventually becoming a bad-ass, fighting alongside Sabina and Jane.
Speaking of Jane, I knew absolutely nothing about Ella Balinska before seeing her in this film, and I really dug her performance and how she played the role of Jane. She’s a bad-ass who knows it. Jane isn’t here to mess around and make friends but rather get the job done and go home. Balinska has some great action sequences and owns them all. Moreover, what I enjoyed the most about her character was the back and forth banter between her and Sabina. It’s as if they shouldn’t work, but because these actresses were so perfectly cast, it does.
Charlie’s Angels has a big supporting cast that includes Patrick Stewart, Djimon Hounsou, and Sam Claflin, among several others. Just like the three leads, they know the type of movie they are in and are having fun being part of it. It is so great to see a legendary actor like Patrick Stewart embracing roles like this one. It shows how much he loves being an actor and mixing it up. Each supporting character works in the film, bringing something unique to the story.
Charlie’s Angels manages to be a wholly entertaining, female-led flick, raising the bar for future films like it. While the plot isn’t anything new, it is the cast, writing, and direction that elevates this film. It’s also a great female empowerment film thanks to the way it celebrates women without being heavy-handed. It is great to see women kick-ass and have fun in the process. We truly need more films like this.
Action-packed, sexy, and hilarious, Charlie’s Angels joins Knives Out, Shazam!, and Dora and the Lost City of Gold as one of the most entertaining films of 2019. Stewart, Scott, and Balinska are terrific, and their chemistry is spot on. Elizabeth Banks is a director and writer to keep an eye on, as she has officially made the best version of Charlie’s Angels to date.
Scott ‘Movie Man’ Menzel’s rating for Charlie’s Angels is an 8 out of 10.