Charlie’s Angels (Blu-ray)
“Another movie from an old TV show!” groans a character at the opening of Charlie’s Angels, in an obvious attempt to preempt objections. It didn’t work. People still complained (at least as I recall the discussions here on HTF). They also condemned the film for being silly and over-the-top, a criticism I didn’t understand then and still don’t. What was the TV show that ran from 1976 through 1981, a documentary?
From premise to execution, the original series was ridiculous – and I mean that as praise, not criticism. Week in, week out, the show sold viewers on the nutty notion that three gorgeous and supposedly intelligent women lived in thrall to a father figure they’d never met and, on his command, routinely overpowered crooks and thugs several times their size, all without breaking a sweat or a nail, mussing their hair, or ruining an inexhaustible wardrobe of designer outfits. These gal pals were fabulous before anyone ever heard of Sex and the City – and they all answered to Mr. Big.
So how do you create the 21st Century film equivalent? You make something unusual in Hollywood: an action movie that’s silly by design.
Film Length: 98 min.
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
HD Encoding: 1080p
HD Codec: AVC
Audio: English, French, Portuguese DTS-HD MA 5.1; Spanish DD 5.1
Subtitles: English; English SDH; French; Spanish; Portuguese
Disc Format: 1 50 GB
Theatrical Release Date: Nov. 3, 2000
Blu-ray Release Date: Aug. 3, 2010
Welcome to the Charles Townsend Detective Agency. Mr. Townsend is never in, but his voice is unmistakable when he calls every morning at 9:00am to relay instructions to his right-hand man, Bosley (Bill Murray). Yes, that’s John Forsyth on the speaker phone, just as it was in 1976. (According to the extras, it’s also the same speaker phone.)
Actual investigating is done by three beautiful women: Natalie (Cameron Diaz), Dylan (Drew Barrymore, who also produced) and Alex (Lucy Liu). They come from very different backgrounds, but all of them are highly trained, relentlessly cheerful and devoted to Charlie. They’re also skilled in numerous technical disciplines and martial arts, but none of them is able to sustain a normal relationship with a man (if you can believe that, and why shouldn’t you?). Natalie loves to dance; Dylan loves to race; and Alex wishes she could cook but botches every recipe she tries (yeah, right).
After an elaborately entertaining opening sequence that, as with many Bond films, bears no connection to the plot, we’re introduced to the Townsend Agency’s latest client: Vivian Wood (Kelly Lynch), president of a software company whose founder and whiz kid, Eric Knox (Sam Rockwell), has just been kidnapped. Suspicion falls on the company’s chief competitor, Roger Corwin (Tim Curry), and it only intensifies when, at a corporate function sponsored by Corwin, the Angels spot a mysterious henchman, dubbed “the Thin Man” (Crispin Glover), who was also visible on security footage showing Knox’s abduction. The Thin Man obviously descends from Odd Job and Jaws, because he never says a word, but he’s a formidable opponent throughout the film.
To summarize the plot further would be pointless, because the plot isn’t important. It’s just a framework on which to hang as many costume changes as possible (in homage to the original show) and to riff on everything from Soul Train to Hong Kong action films to The Matrix’s “bullet time” to the vault heist in Mission Impossible to the biggest, baddest explosions since the roof blew in Die Hard. You can almost hear director McG chortling with glee as he realizes that he’s making his feature debut in a setting where nothing is too much. When a film features Bill Murray and Tim Curry facing off in giant fat suits and helmets designed to make them look like sumo wrestlers, you just have to go with it.
The film’s lunacy is somewhat modulated by the presence of Luke Wilson, Matt LeBlanc and Tom Green as love interests for, respectively, Natalie, Alex and Dylan. It should tell you something about a film when it’s Tom Green who provides some of the quieter moments.
Diaz, Barrymore and Liu are nothing like any of the women on the TV series, and it’s to their credit that they don’t try. Kate Jackson, Jaclyn Smith and the late Farah Fawcett were icons of their age, and any attempt to mimic them would be doomed to failure. The three new Angels are new characters who are, in their own way, just as daffy, and while they may not qualify as icons, they’re entertaining presences. Diaz is especially effective at selling Natalie as a down-to-earth, fun-loving girl who just wants to dance and meet a nice guy, but also happens to be capable of flying through the air delivering lethal kicks to multiple opponents. Lucy Liu was still on Ally McBeal at the time, and in some scenes she’s clearly parodying her role on that show, but her work also looks forward to her more menacing turn in 2003's Kill Bill. As for Barrymore, it’s hard to decide which scene is more classic: the one where Dylan beats down five guys while tied up and then moon-walks out the door, or the one where she falls, naked, out of a window, rolls down a mountain and lands at the same house where, almost twenty years earlier, Barrymore filmed E.T.
DP Russell Carpenter described Charlie’s Angels as “a cinematographer’s dream”, and it’s easy to see why. It’s a fantasy world in which everything and everyone is beautifully and perfectly lit. Sony has provided their usual fine Blu-ray transfer, with solid blacks, bright, saturated colors, no video noise and just the slightest hint of film grain. The resolution and detail are so good that some shots take on a surreal quality, and you think, “That must be rear projection”, even though it’s a real location (McG points out several of these on the commentary). It’s a warm, glowing, candy-colored presentation for a movie whose chief aspiration is to give the viewer a sugar rush.
As presented in DTS lossless, the audio is as intense as the video, with explosions, kicks, helicopter blades, car crashes and, in one especially impressive sequence, approximately 2000 bullet hits in about 60 seconds. Dialogue is mostly clear (although I can never understand Lucy Liu’s line when shooting an arrow until I see the “blooper” version in the end credits). The contemporary score by Ed Schearmur packs the requisite punch, as do the songs by Destiny’s Child and other groups.
Except for features utilizing BD-Live capabilities, all special features are derived from the 2001 DVD.
MovieIQ™. This is Sony’s on-screen trivia function that uses BD-Live capabilities to provide IMDb-like information during playback. The option is selected from the “play” menu. An icon indicates when relevant information is available.
Commentary with Director McG and Cinematographer Russell Carpenter. This is the same commentary recorded for the 2001 DVD release. McG and Carpenter speak continuously and enthusiastically, with most of their comments prompted by the action immediately on screen. Carpenter’s presence encourages much technical discussion, but Carpenter (whose credits include True Lies and Titanic, for which he won an Oscar) is smart enough not to get bogged down in arcane detail. Both speak admiringly of the contributions of the three leads, as well as those of Murray, Rockwell and Glover. McG goes out of his way to address the oft-repeated (and much inflated) tales of conflict between Murray and others on set.
Deleted Scenes (SD; 2.35:1, centered in 4:3) (4:42). There are three scenes, each introduced by McG and followed by an explanation of why it was cut. The one I found most intriguing features a bright red men’s room that, according to another featurette, was designed as a homage to Kubrick’s The Shining (though for what reason I cannot imagine).
Outtakes and Bloopers (SD; 2.35:1, centered in 4:3) (2:39). This isn’t really a separate feature, but the same series of goofs and jokes that plays during the film’s credits, minus the actual credits.
Getting G’d Up (SD; 4:3) (6:32). A series of tributes by the cast and crew to director McG’s energy and enthusiasm. Worth watching simply for Murray’s sardonic comments sprinkled throughout (“If McG’s in an elevator and it stops at a floor before it gets to the lobby, he will tell that person entering the elevator, shot by shot, the entire movie.”).
The Master and the Angels (SD; 4:3) (7:25). An account of how Cheung-Yan Yuen, the veteran Hong Kong martial arts expert, trained the cast for three months before filming and oversaw the film’s fight sequences.
Welcome to Angel World (SD; 4:3) (4:48). Production designer J. Michael Riva and others discuss the stylized alternate reality they created for the film.
Angelic Attire: Dressing Cameron, Drew and Lucy (SD; 4:3) (3:25). Costume designer Joseph Aulisi talks about the look he created for each main character. He and Murray also comment on Bosley’s look, which Murray describes in his inimitable manner.
Angelic Effects (SD; 4:3) (6:45). A look at the film’s outsized effects, both practical and CG. The elaborate opening shot – which appears to push in on the Columbia logo to a real sky, then enters an airplane, follows a passenger through its entire length and exits the airplane for a parachute jump – is a notable set piece.
Wired Angels (SD; 4:3) (2:35). A work print version of the Chinese alley fight sequence, before any wire removal, with an introduction by McG.
Music Videos (SD; 1.85:1, centered in 4:3) (8:20).
Independent Women, Part 1, Destiny’s Child
Charlie’s Angels 2000, Apollo Four Forty
Trailers. No trailers play at startup. The features menu contains trailers for Stomp the Yard: Homecoming, The Back-Up Plan, Beastly, The Runaways and Damages. The teaser and trailer for the film itself are not included, which is unfortunate.
BD-Live. This function was not yet enabled at the time of this review.
Easter Eggs. The press materials refer to two easter eggs, but I couldn’t find them on the Blu-ray. The 2001 DVD contained a short hidden video of the effects team making a face cast of Barrymore and another hidden video with additional joke footage (including Sam Rockwell’s impression of Christopher Walken). If anyone finds these on the Blu-ray, please let me know where they are.
Charlie’s Angels was successful enough to prompt a 2003 sequel, and I’m sure it’s already in the Blu-ray pipeline. Eye candy never goes out of style.
Equipment used for this review:
Panasonic BDP-BD50 Blu-ray player (DTS-HD MA decoded internally and output as analog)
Samsung HL-T7288W DLP display (connected via HDMI)
Lexicon MC-8 connected via 5.1 passthrough
Sunfire Cinema Grand amplifier
Monitor Audio floor-standing fronts and MA FX-2 rears
Boston Accoustics VR-MC center
SVS SB12-Plus sub
- View New Content
- Blu-ray, DVD, Streaming Video and Digital Downloads
- Home Theater Hardware
- Theaters, Remotes and Accessories
- Equipment Reviews
- DVD & Blu-ray Reviews
- Other Diversions
- Bargains and Deals
- Feedback and Testing
- Latest Blu-ray Deals
- Shop Amazon & Support HTF
- Theater Photos
DVD & Blu-ray Reviews
- Equipment Reviews
Blu-ray Release Listings
- Shop Amazon