Film Review – Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle, Dark Blue, Gods and Generals, Whale Rider, The In-Laws

Absurd Dirt Bikes

(originally published 1/7/03 in Inform Magazine)

Whilst we all recover from the stunningly po-faced inanity that was the Matrix Reloaded, the perfect antidote arrives in the form of Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle, a film that tries everything not to take itself seriously.

This is a gloriously stupid film, in which the three lovely stars of the show Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore and Lucy Liu play three fun-lovin’ gals with equally absurd names. Logic never enters into a single frame of the film which, let’s be honest, is not always a good thing. Something can be silly and logical. But I don’t care, I’m in a good mood and the sight of lots of dirt-bikes leaping around in incredibly impossible ways cheered me up no end.

Just as most of the stunts are lifted from The Matrix with none of that ‘we’re subverting reality here’ stuff, so the plot is taken from the Lord of the Rings without all that tedious messing around in Middle Earth. So the Angels don a variety of disguises, and take off a lot of their clothes, as they search for these rings that some bad guy wants. This bad guy turns out to be Demi Moore (I’m not spoiling anything here – it’s there in the trailer), who was once an Angel herself. Apparently, when Charlie gets tired of his Angels, because they’re not as pert as they once were, they end up in a life of crime. Or going insane and marrying Ryan O’Neill.

So what if no shot lasts more that 0.1 seconds, Bernie Mac is no replacement for Bill Murray, and there’s stupidly ‘with it’ music plastered over every scene? Hollywood blockbusters are often accused of being mindless, when mindlessness is often what we want from our movie experiences. Roll on the next film, although it’s a wonder how it could possibly be any stupider.

Just as Matrix Reloaded put me in the mood for Charlie’s Angels, so Charlie’s Angels put me in the mood for Dark Blue, a tough no-nonsense crime thriller from director Ron Shelton, who usually directs tough but fluffy sports films (Bull Durham, White Men Can’t Jump, Tin Cup etc.). Like LA Confidential, it follows a group of LA cops as they investigate a number of cases in a less than strictly legal way. And like LA Confidential it’s based on a story by James Ellroy. However, this is set in the early 90s, just before the LA Riots were about to be triggered by the exoneration of a bunch of cops who were caught otherwise literally redhanded beating up Rodney King.

Kurt Russell plays an amoral career policeman who is part of a special section of the LAPD that basically likes to beat the crap out of black guys. However, with the Rodney King verdict due any day and suspicions that nobody is going to like it, he’s forced to defend himself from an accusation that he shot one of his ‘suspects’ a little too quickly. From such promising beginnings, the film does let you down somewhat, particularly in its cheesy conclusion – leading characters making grand speeches about how they’ve achieved redemption never go well. But after the froth of Charlie and his dippy Angels I needed something gritty.

However, I don’t there’s anything that can prepare you for Gods and Generals, a hugely bloated history piece concerning characters from the American Civil War. The thing about such self-important history pieces is that they are very much a product of their country and come across as completely absurd in other countries. Hey, us British aren’t immune either – have you ever seen Cromwell?

Another problem with Gods and Generals is that it centres on two ultimate losers of the war – Confederate Generals Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee – as they get all determined about how they’re going to win the war. Not a bad idea, per se, but nearly four hours (!) of that can instill feelings of depressive inertia in even the most hardened pessimist. A ten minute scene where Jackson pretentiously expresses his feelings for having a child – it’s actually a metaphor for his feelings about the war – only leaves you wondering why anyone would want to sleep with the boring sod.

Whale Rider concerns a young girl born into the leading family of a New Zealand Maori tribe, who is rejected by her stern patriarchs before they heart-warmingly realise that she is worthy to lead their tribe and is therefore The One. Oh God, you’d think I could get over my disappointments with the Matrix Reloaded by now. Thankfully, our heroine here isn’t flying around and beating the crap out of passing martial artists, she merely has to fetch a whale tooth from the bottom of the ocean.

The In-Laws isn’t that bad, despite starring Albert Brooks and Michael Douglas; two actors who have committed great cinematic crimes in the past.

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About klausjoynson
I'm a writer, editor, musician, DJ and cartoonist. Contact me at: klausjoynson(at)gmail.com or follow me on Twitter: @KlausJoynson

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