Ella Balinska, Kristen Stewart and Naomi Scott in Charlie’s Angels (Photo: Columbia)

CHARLIE’S ANGELS
★★½ (out of four)
DIRECTED BY Elizabeth Banks
STARS Kristen Stewart, Naomi Scott

Perhaps a career as a box office prognosticator — or a studio executive — should have been in the cards. After all, I could have told Columbia Pictures that this new screen version of Charlie’s Angels would be a financial bomb and that they should save their $48 million investment. Indeed, the film did open horribly, with its first weekend netting only $8 million and its total stateside gross likely to be under $20 million. There are several reasons for that, none having to do with the quality of the film itself (it’s actually not bad). To wit:

1) Kristen Stewart. Most men don’t seem to like her — or, rather, most doltish men, the ones who condescendingly are still chuckling over her participation in those Twilight films. Discerning male moviegoers, of course, know that, like Twilight co-star Robert Pattinson, she has blossomed into an excellent and reliable performer, saving her best work for the art-house circuit. But the guys who turn out for mainstream action films weren’t likely to turn out for one starring Stewart. Too bad, as she’s the best part of Charlie’s Angels. As Sabina Wilson, the most impulsive and reckless of the heroines, she’s feisty, ferocious, and funny.

2) The other two Angels. Those earlier films based on the classic TV series cast three popular actresses in the leading roles — who wasn’t familiar with Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore and Lucy Liu? Conversely, is anyone familiar with Naomi Scott or Ella Balinska? Scott did play Jasmine in this summer’s Aladdin and Balinska starred in a British TV series called The Athena, but that’s hardly going to get audiences to queue up at the local multiplex. As for their characters in this new movie, they pale in comparison to Stewart’s Sabina — frankly, they pale next to all prior Angels with the exceptions of the ones essayed by Shelley Hack and Tonya Roberts. Balinska portrays former MI6 agent Jane Kano while Scott plays naïve techie Elena Houghlin — each actress is allowed a few moments to shine, but for the most part, their characters aren’t particularly interesting or exciting.

3) Elizabeth Banks. Banks, who serves as director, co-writer and co-star (she cast herself as Angel handler Bosley), is a proud feminist and infuses her works with strong pro-women ideals. Charlie’s Angels is no exception, and the picture even begins with a lovely credits sequence showing ordinary women happily doing ordinary things. A strong sense of female solidarity can be felt throughout the film — perhaps too strong in one instance, since, given Banks’ slant, it’s easy to stay one step ahead of the plot twists and sniff out the villain despite all the diversions and distractions. Banks also oversees some nifty action sequences and offers some amusing interludes. But let’s face it: Given the current climate in this country, where the actions of rape-happy misogynists have been normalized and even cheered since 2016, these Angels didn’t stand a chance of scoring bank for Banks. Instead, they’ll have to join the Ghostbusters in drowning their sorrows at the nearest concession stand.

 

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