"Charlie's Angels"

First-time director McG spins out a hilarious list of tongue-in-cheek filmic homages in his commentary to this "pop-a-wheelie" candy-colored thrill ride of an action movie.

By Jeff Stark
Published April 12, 2001 7:00PM (EDT)

"Charlie's Angels"
Directed by McG
Starring Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz, Lucy Liu, Bill Murray, Kelly Lynch, Crispin Glover
Columbia/Tristar Studios; widescreen anamorphic (2.35:1 aspect ratio)
Extras: director and cinematographer commentary, deleted and extended scenes, outtakes and bloopers, fashion featurette, set-design featurette, martial arts and stunts featurette, special-effects featurette, director McG featurette, special-effects deconstruction, music videos by Destiny's Child and Apollo Four Forty

"Charlie's Angels" is a Pop-Rocks-and-Coke movie. It's fizzy and sweet and explosive and probably no good for you whatsoever. But the Angels are delicious and it's a blast to watch the whole sugary mess flash together and blow up.

The movie spins off from the '70s television show, but there are few similarities, really. The most important one is that there are three Angels -- here Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz and Lucy Liu -- who fight crime for their boss, the unseen Charlie. The second most important is that all of the actresses look amazing and flip their hair in slow motion. Diaz is shameless and funny as the anti-glamour glamour girl. Crispin Glover plays a great villain who sniffs the Angels' hair and tries to beat them up yet never says a word.

The preposterous plot has the Angels preserving world privacy and saving Charlie from a laser-guided missile. But the movie is really about great clothes, great cars, money locations, big explosions and ass-kicking babes. That's no secret to the director, who goes by the name McG, a feature-movie virgin who is most well known for his music videos and commercials. He calls it "a pop-a-wheelie kind of movie," "a film that explodes in the pleasure center of the brain." He's not wrong.

The "Charlie's Angels" DVD is loaded with extras, most of which add up to mostly nothing, making them a perfect complement to the film. Each of the featurettes could be short-segment programs on "Entertainment Tonight." The most compelling of the bunch shows the Angels learning how to fight with their Hong Kong trainers. The process took three months, eight hours a day. There's also a decent featurette on the look of the film, a silly one about working with McG where Bill Murray essentially insults him for five minutes ("If you put a nickel in McG he will do the whole movie") and a throwaway featurette on the clothing. The few bloopers never really embarrass anyone, but there are two choice deleted scenes, including a shameless game of Marco Polo between Murray and villain Tim Curry that looks mostly like an attempt to squeeze a few more sexy actresses in bikinis into the film. It's a shock that McG didn't make the space for it in the completed film.

McG's full-length commentary, with cinematographer Russell Carpenter ("Titanic"), is obnoxiously funny -- one rambling sentence that plays like a parody of DVD director commentaries. Each and every actor was "wonderful," "a joy to work with" and "a consummate professional." Every other scene is "one of my favorite scenes," and he points out virtually everyone "having a lot of fun with" their lines, their kung fu moves, blowing up buildings or sending cars off of bridges. He busts a few of his own continuity errors and highlights some product placement. And he's constantly pointing out all of his visual references. A long shot is his homage to Martin Scorsese; a mask is an homage to "Mission: Impossible"; a set is an homage to "Pee-wee's Big Adventure." He also mentions "Bullitt," "Inferno," "Bye Bye Birdie," "Star Wars," "A Clockwork Orange," "The Hudsucker Proxy," "The Shining," John Hughes, Spike Lee, Charlie Brown, "The Hunchback of Notre Dame," "The Matrix," "ET," "Firestarter," "Papillon," "The Birdman of Alcatraz," "The Great Escape," "Godzilla," "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," "True Lies," "Urban Cowboy," and the original "Charlie's Angels" television series. And that's just a partial list.

The funniest thing about all of those references is that they're all strictly visual, and McG admits as much. In the scene where Cameron Diaz plays a game of chicken in a race car, the camera cuts to a bird on the highway. McG says that it's his homage to action director John Woo, "a bird flying away and signifying something." He never, of course, hazards a guess as to what that something might be. Kind of like the movie.

Jeff Stark

Jeff Stark is the associate editor of Salon Arts and Entertainment.

MORE FROM Jeff Stark

Related Topics ------------------------------------------