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Intersection of Life and Faith

"Full Throttle" Full of Mindless, Toxic Trash

  • Michael Medved Your Cultural Crusader
  • 2003 27 Jun
"Full Throttle" Full of Mindless, Toxic Trash

The misguided moviegoers who pay good money to see “Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle” will expect to see mindless trash; they may not, however, feel prepared for the toxic trash that Columbia Pictures sends their way this time around.

This appallingly vacuous vehicle for three glamorous stars erases all dividing lines between sexy and smutty, and makes a cruel joke of its utterly inappropriate PG-13 rating. I feel personally victimized by this puerile project, since I brought my 14-year-old daughter with me to see the movie. I regret that she sat through this sleazy stupidity — I regret that I sat through it, in fact — and I hope that other potential customers will learn from my mistake.

The first “Charlie’s Angels” movie hardly qualified as a cinematic masterpiece, but it managed to deploy a breezy, good natured, tongue-in-cheek approach to the tacky old TV series, and offered the compensation of three charismatic stars (Cameron Diaz, Lucy Liu, Drew Barrymore) clearly enjoying themselves in their athletic and bullet-free action scenes.

This time, director McG (known primarily as a master of music videos) tries to give the fight sequences a more gritty, realistic flavor, and the result looks ridiculous. In the first film, we’re supposed to laugh at the notion that three glamorous females beat dozens of muscular baddies in hand-to-hand combat, but in the sorry sequel McG wants us to take that notion seriously. He also reflects the influence of “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” with countless scenes in which his heroines defy gravity and other laws of nature. The clumsy execution of such aerial acrobatics only increases one’s appreciation for Ang Lee’s genius and highlights the limitations of computer-generated special effects.

Meanwhile, the special effect in the movie generating the most attention involves the much-discussed cosmetic surgery which, allegedly, prepared Demi Moore for her brief (less than 90 seconds) bikini scene with Cameron Diaz. Ms. Moore, at age 40, elected to play a “fallen angel” – a former “Charlie’s Angels” crime fighter who now uses her skills as the arch-villainess in a mind-numbing plot. Demi looks fit, if not spectacular, in her black bathing suit, but the brief scene (also featuring leering views of Cameron Diaz in a white bikini) hardly justifies the price of admission for even the most lecherous voyeurs in the audience.

The barely intelligible plot involves an effort to recover two rings which have been encoded with potentially devastating information about the location and identity of personnel in the witness protection program. The action, such as it is, begins with a lame set piece in Mongolia (which makes one long for the real 007), and moves through various locations to a confrontation on Hollywood Boulevard the night of a gala movie premiere.

In a lame effort to “flesh out” the stylishly thin heroines, the script provides flash-backs for each of the angels: Lucy Liu is a brilliant, privileged over-achiever, Cameron Diaz is a wholesome, animal loving Mid-Western girl, and Drew Barrymore is an orphan who learns the value of toughness from an early age. There’s also a major subplot involving Drew’s former life, and a discarded, criminal boyfriend (Justin Theroux) who, after his release from prison, resolves to come after her. The gifted and amusing Bernie Mac also represents a noteworthy addition to the cast, taking over the Bill Murray role as Bosley, protective supervisor of the adventurous angels. Mac’s dialogue proves frequently unintelligible, but he approaches his role with energy and panache – even when trying to pass himself off as a member of the “Irish Mafia” and insisting that he’s one of the “Black Irish.”

Director McG, obviously acknowledging the incompetence and vacuity of the script, attempts to spice up the pathetic proceedings with knowing references to a dozen other films – “Cape Fear,” “Saturday Night Fever,” “Die Hard,” “Flash Dance,” and so forth. He also plays games of “spot the stars,” with cameo appearances by worthies such as an uncredited Bruce Willis, John Cleese, Pink, Carrie Fisher, and many others. The soundtrack also offers an eclectic array of songs, constantly competing for attention with the feckless frolic on film, and highlighting artists from Brian Wilson to MC Hammer to White Zombie.

When a movie needs to distract you from its own vacuity with musical cues, celebrity cameos, and cinematic references, you can assume that the filmmakers have no confidence in their own material. The off-color humor provides a further indication of their desperation — especially in one extended bit in which Lucy Liu inadvertently leads her father, John Cleese (!) to believe that she and her friends are prostitutes who have serviced gangs of sailors and twisted women. Speaking of twisted women, Demi Moore may look svelte and sophisticated on screen, but she phones in her performance, and it’s impossible to avoid pitying her during a brief scene of lesbian pornographic appeal.

In fact, the whole “Full Throttle” project feels embarrassing, incompetent, and insulting to its audience. The PG-13 remains disgracefully unsuitable for this putrid peep show, and the only redeeming feature for the film involves a peripatetic pace that mitigates the pain. ONE AND A HALF STARS.       

Michael Medved hosts a nationally syndicated daily radio show focusing on the intersection of politics and pop culture.  He's the author of eight non-fiction books, was co-host for 12 years on "Sneak Previews" on PBS, and is the former Chief Film Critic for the New York Post.