Even if you enjoyed the 'go, go-go girls, go!' humour (and I didn't) of 'Charlie's Angels', the postmodern movie version of the popular 1970s TV series, I'm willing to bet that you barely remember a single detail of its plot. Its sequel, 'Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle', again directed by the oddly named McG, is just as forgettable once you've exited the cinema, inducing a similar sense of emptiness within the viewer, or even mild self-loathing - yet as long as those reels are still rolling, you may be surprised to find yourself grinning like an idiot, fully entertained by the gravity-defying stunts, the logic-defying plot, the taste-defying humour, and even the age-defying Demi Moore as a fallen Angel.
My biggest prejudice against this sequel was the absence of Bill Murray - who can save any bad film, even the first 'Charlie's Angels', from utter damnation - as Bosley. Yet Bernie Mac as the new Bosley is in fact very funny, as is the unexplained absurdity of having two Bosley brothers, one white, one black - and the detail that Bill Murray's Bosley was brought up in South Central.
As is the way with postmodernism, 'Full Throttle' immunises itself against all manner of criticism by anticipating and ironising such criticisms within the film itself. eg. The Angels point out for us that Bosley is a superfluous character whose only purpose is to provide a connection between Charlie's instructions and the Angels' actions. Just how stupid maxed-up sequels can be is made clear when Jason (Matt LeBlanc), the actor-boyfriend of Angel Alex Munday (Lucy Liu), stars in a clearly stupid, maxed-up sequel called 'Maximum Extreme 2', at the Hollywood premiere of which the kick-ass climax of our own sequel, 'Full Throttle', takes place. The set-pieces, to be sure, are all cliched, but the film is only taking the piss out of these cliches, carefully signposting its parodies of 'CSI', 'Cape Fear', 'Grease', 'The Blues Brothers', 'Point Break', 'The Matrix' and the entire James Bond franchise.
Even the film's endless reduction of women to simpering, body-grinding bikini-clad tits n' ass is counterbalanced (somewhat disingenuously) by the fact that these girls are empowered, repeatedly using their looks to distract and outwit the pathetic men on parade in the film (and perhaps in the audience). Indeed, after Jason has revealed to Alex's father (played by John Cleese; another ethnic absurdity) the truth of what she does for a living, all manner of doubles-entendres mislead Mr Munday into believing that she is a sex worker. Of course the real joke is not so much that he is completely wrong, as that he is in fact half right, since the Angels are really both sexual objects and independent women at the same time.
In this self-referential hall of mirrors, to criticise is to run the risk of not being in on the film's joke. If you object too loudly to the endless cleavage-wiggling and bum-gags, you risk exposing your own unsophisticated failure to comprehend the deep vein of irony in this shallow film. In other words, when it comes to lowbrow laughs and sexist nonsense, 'Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle' can get away with having its (angel) cake and eating it too.
I went into 'Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle' expecting it to be inane crud. And it is. But it is too mad to be bad, and too clever to be quite as dumb as it keeps insisting it is.
Anton Bitel, 02/07/03