Monday, 26 September 2011

Review: CHARLIE'S ANGELS (2011), 1.1 - "Angel With A Broken Wing"

Monday, 26 September 2011
written by Alfred Gough & Miles Millar; directed by Marcos Siega
starring Annie Ilonzeh, Minka Kelly, Rachael Taylor, Ramon Rodriguez & Victor Garber (voice)

I'll give it this, ABC's remake of 1976 kitsch classic Charlie's Angels at least arrives without arduously setting up the premise for the minority who've escaped this slice of pop-culture. In fact, it only takes a quick prologue to explain that unseen billionaire Charlie Townsend (voice of Alias' Victor Garber) has a penchant for recruiting attractive female delinquents and transforming them into "angels of justice", as we meet dirty cop Kate Prince (Annie Ilonzeh), cat burglar Abby Sampson (Rachael Taylor) and disgraced army explosives expert Gloria Morales (Nadine Velasquez).

The latter should perhaps cause furrowed brows, as a key part of the pilot hinged on the car-bombed death of angel Gloria, which triggered a mission of revenge involving Gloria's secret childhood friend Eve French (Minka Kelly), an orphaned street racer who knows the man behind the bombing. It's the kind of unexpected twist that undoubtedly would have worked brilliantly in the pilot's script, but less so on TV after months of promotion making it clear Velasquez isn't part of the new-look Angels. Fortunately, one benefit of not living in the US is how I avoid most of ABC's marketing, so I'd completely forgotten Minka Kelly was involved in this remake. The upshot being, I was one of a small group of viewers for which Gloria's demise felt like a decent shock, and it was largely responsible for me giving this pilot a chance.

I can't summon the vitriol to outright hate Charlie's Angels 2011, which will be most people's default reaction. It's not like any of its predecessors were sterling pieces of entertainment (who remembers a single episode of the '70s show?), and this latest version is on par (i.e. Farrah Fawcett's wall space may go to Rachael Taylor in teenage boy's bedrooms). It's less fun but slightly smarter than both of McG's movies, which were mostly an excuse to get Drew Barrymore, Lucy Liu and Cameron Diaz into lingerie for wire-fu fights with a pulsing techno-pop soundtrack, as Diaz wiggled her arse at the camera. Girl power, indeed.

This new version's only major crime is that the world doesn't need Charlie's Angels, and certainly not one that does little to make itself feel fresh and different. The closest it comes it giving us an ethnic Bosley (Ramon Rodriguez), which makes sense given the show's Miami backdrop, although even Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle got there first by casting the late Bernie Mac.

To be honest, there was always something uncomfortable about the concept of this show, with the pimp-like Charlie's secrecy being very suspicious (and going largely unchallenged, beyond jokey digs at his nonattendance's). It's an idea that feels outdated in its soul, which is why McG's movies at least realized they had to treat the whole thing as preposterous camp, but now modern audiences are being asked to take it fairly seriously again. I doubt it'll work, as the three actresses aren't especially compelling—although they're at least attractive without being treated as sex objects, and have promising rapport as a team. It's something to build on, at least. And I guess it was fun to see Carlos Bernard as the pilot's goateed villain, getting to torture an angel with a stun-gun like the countless terrorists he was helping catch on 24 as Tony Almeida.

Overall, I won't be watching more of Charlie's Angels because why does anyone really need to? There's nothing here that's enough of a big reinvention to draw you back, as it's all rather tame and mostly predictable. Maybe if it had been given an edginess or deeper mystery, like The CW's Nikita, it would have worked for today's audience? Or perhaps a more comedic angle like NBC's Chuck would have equaled more fun? I just know that more adventures with these angels isn't a heavenly prospect.


  • Victor Garber replaced Robert Wagner as the voice of Charlie because of scheduling conflicts. Wagner, being a star of various TV shows with a Charlie's Angels vibe, like Hart To Hart, would have added a fun layer and been a more amusing choice.
  • Former-angel Drew Barrymore is an executive-producer on this series, if that's in any way encouraging to you.
22 September 2011 / ABC