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Sorry Charlie!

'Angels' is high on action, low on wit

graphic

(CNN) -- "Charlie's Angels" starts out with a strong adrenaline rush as the Angels, played by Cameron Diaz, Lucy Liu and Drew Barrymore (doing double duty as one of the project's producers) all take wing in what seems to be a promising and delightful spoof of Aaron Spelling's successful television show.

The hit series, which ran from 1976 to 1981, featured three beautiful female crime fighters who all report to the mysterious -- and never seen -- millionaire, Charlie Townsend. Fans of the original television show should note the voice of Charlie is once again provided by veteran actor John Forsythe.

Twenty years later, his new Angels are still strong and sexy, reveling in their bimbo image while still kicking butt.

However, before you can finish a medium bucket of popcorn, the film degenerates into just another big-budgeted, high-concept action flick with a huge babe factor. Not that there's anything wrong with that...

Despite the fact that the film loses its razor sharp pacing and muddles its storyline, the movie still features plenty of big explosions, loud music and bare flesh. That sizzling -- and adolescent -- combination will undoubtedly fulfill the cinematic needs of many.

The Angels are called into service by Charlie's second-in-command, Bosley, played with Bill Murray's patented droll delivery. Their assignment: Rescue Eric Knox (Sam Rockwell), the brainy founder of a high-tech company who has invented voice-identification software that could replace the use of fingerprinting and also helps trace people anywhere on earth through the use of their cell-phone. In the hands of the wrong villain, this could mean the end to personal privacy! The most likely suspect is Knox's business rival, Roger Corwin, played to the swarmy hilt by Tim Curry. Kelly Lynch plays the supposedly loyal President of Knox Technologies.

At this point, "Charlie's Angels" becomes a standard issue action/thriller. The plot is further damaged by subplots involving the men in the Angel's lives. Especially annoying is the relationship between Liu's character and her movie star boytoy, played by Matt LeBlanc. Luke Wilson fares a little better as the object of Diaz's ditsy, lustful intentions. Of course, Tom Green became the big winner. He plays Barrymore's romantic foil, and ended up engaged to the veteran actress in real life.

By the third act, high tech toys, "Matrix"-type stop action special effects, helicopter shot after helicopter shot, and plenty of fight scenes featuring the girls in tight outfits -- while pounding the living daylights out of a series of generic bad guys -- becomes the film's main focus.

But what begins as a self-mocking, sharp, insightful and gleeful take on the old TV show -- slow-motion shots of wind whipped hair, plus make-up enhanced plot twists lifted right out of "Mission Impossible" (the TV show, not the grandstanding films made by Tom Cruise) -- turns into a latex-thin, "PG-13"-rated shampoo ad.

  WHO'S WHO
Drew, Cameron and Lucy

Meet the women of 'Charlie's Angels'
 
  ANGEL FASHION
Dressed to kill

Big-screen 'Angels' embraces sexier, seductive styles
 
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Movie trailer for 'Charlie's Angels'

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All that said, this does not imply that "Charlie's Angels" sinks to the depths of other TV shows turned into toxic feature films such as "The Mod Squad" (1999) and "The Avengers" (1998). "Charlie" has its faults, but this homage to '70s braless television at least attempts to make sense. It also tries to maintain its tongue-in-cheek humor.

Producer Barrymore must be applauded for even getting this project off the ground, let alone shepherding it through all the changes made by the credited writers, (Ryan Rowe, Ed Solomon and John August), and the various uncredited script doctors involved.

"Charlie's Angels" is the feature film debut of the award-winning music video director McG, (known to his mother as Joseph McGinty Mitchell). To his credit, when the script works, so does his direction. When the written words become trite, nothing he could do would salvage the end result. His solution, apparently, was to just keep pouring on the action.

Bottom Line: It will make millions, but if your expectations are too high, it will be bye, bye Charlie.

"Charlie's Angels" opens nationwide on Friday, November 3. It is rated "PG-13" with a running time of 92 minutes.



RELATED SITES:
Official "Charlie's Angels" Web site
Movies.com: "Charlie's Angels"
Original "Charlie's Angels" on TNT

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