Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle
Something we learn about midway through "Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle" is that Drew Barrymore's character, Dylan Sanders, was born Helen Zas, a fact that her fellow Angel Lucy Liu reminds her was hell in junior high (critic Roger Ebert, in his review of the film, recalls the other famous mis-named girl, Monica Stitz). That's about the level of wit here, as it was in the first Charlie's Angels film, though the second time around it's lost most of its edge. I hasten to point out that I like junior high school humor; I just can't take too much of it at one time. (And where are the embarrassing boys' names?)
The plot here, and it barely exists, is that the trio must locate and return two rings containing the coded current names and true identities of people in the Justice Department's Witness Protection program before they fall into the hands of a) the Russian mafia; b) the Italian mafia; or c) the Japanese Yakuza. The film opens, for reasons I've yet to figure out, in North Mongolia (not on my map), with Cameron Diaz riding a barroom bronc in full dopey-sex mode while her fellow Angels, Drew Barrymore and Lucy Liu, do their best against the bad guys below. The rest of the film alternates between scenes of uneven banter and scenes of mayhem. The stunts are never believable, which is understandable, but they are also never enjoyable to watch; they're variations on stuff we've seen a thousand times before.
One nice addition, though, is Demi Moore as what you might call a fallen Angel, from the old show no doubt, who comes back as both a mentor and a nemesis. One scene, wittily recalling Moore's magnum opus "Ghost," has her lit with a heavenly light and then fading out into the ether. Moore, the subject these days of a lot of media speculation about the revival of her career, shows good acting chops and should find work easily on the basis of this film. On the other hand, the comedian Bernie Mac, taking over as Bosley from Bill Murray, has obviously been left shredded on the cutting-room floor. He hardly speaks, which negates his talents, and his back story, which involved a "Jerk"-like family for Murray's Bosley, is barely there. And poor young Shia LaBoeuf, who was so good as the lead in "Holes," seems to have been dropped into the film at random moments just to say a line or ask a question.
On the other hand, the film's three stars are glorious together. They're obviously having fun; they dance, they shimmy, they handle one-liners with aplomb, which only makes us wish there were more; and they're not defeated by the total stupidity of the plot. The direction, by McG (Joseph McGinty Nichol, and there's a junior high school name for you), who also directed the first "Angels" film and comes from the music video genre, is loud with action but inept with continuity; he can't seem to relax, and the film keeps veering into the hysterical. By trying to top the first one he makes the second film something less.