A guilty pleasure if ever there was one. Charlie's Angels is, of course, based on the popular '70s TV series, which featured three sexy women doing detective work for their forever unseen boss Charlie (voiced, then as now, by John "Blake Carrington" Forsythe). Charlie's Angels was American TV's first true jigglefest, where viewers were less interested in the thwart-the-bad-guy plots as they were the inevitable scenes of Farrah Fawcett in a bikini. This big-screen adaptation is well aware of what made the first series work and what was ripe for lampooning: With such beloved cheesy subject matter to work off of (hot women kicking ass!), there's plenty of room for thrills, titillation, and laughs.
Lots of movies made during the last decade have aimed for this level of thoroughly enjoyable kitsch, but have failed time and time again, mostly due to a lack of energy, inventiveness, or humor. Charlie's Angels pulls it off, which comes as a big surprise considering its legendary production problems (budget overruns, an incomplete script, over a dozen writers, and bad blood between several of the stars).
Of course, this isn't high art. But why does it work? Mainly because director Joseph McGinty Mitchell (working under the stupid moniker "McG" and yet another in a long line of TV commercial directors getting their turn at a feature) knows how to keep the energy up. Loads of Matrix-style fighting, slo mo shots of the girls shaking their hair in the breeze, plunging necklines, goofy boy-girl shenanigans, and wildly over-the-top action scenes keep the movie fresh and one step ahead of becoming a bad joke.
The performances are all fine (how can one not like a film in which Crispin Glover plays a speechless, sword-wielding maniac?), though Cameron Diaz is looking frightfully skinny these days, and Bill Murray acts like he's just in it for the paycheck. (He was reportedly the most contentious of the cast.) Though it surprises me to say it, the movie as a whole is smart enough – and dumb enough – for me to recommend it as pure, trashy pop candy.