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Charlie's Angels 2:
Full Throttle

You've all been to a cheap carnival. You probably spent too much money on pink popcorn, lemonade, and cotton candy. Plunking down even more money on tickets to ride, you went on attractions that looked like they might blow over in a strong wind, even as they hurled you into the air. And afterward, you might have even thrown up behind a hay bale. Sure, you had fun, but the afterbuzz made you wonder why you didn't just save up the money and go to some place really good.

That's kind of what Charlie's Angels 2: Full Throttle is like. For some of you, any criticism is beside the point. So let's get the confession out now: it is damned funny. But it's also a horrible piece of filmmaking, with less sense of how story elements connect than an episode of I'm With Busey.

To praise it is to run the risk of allowing director McG to consider himself a gifted auteur. And people, I'm just not sure I can allow that to happen.

It's not like the first was a masterpiece, either. And so if you're thinking, well, more of the same isn't a bad thing, then this "Film by McG" (is it irony?) will be your cup of tea. Ride the Whirlwind, baby, then have a couple of corn dogs. Not necessarily in that order..

Now that those readers have left to find the shot of Eliza Dushku in a bikini, here's the real skinny.

What plot there is follows the same beats as the first film, even bringing back Crispin Glover as the evil Thin Man, though he may have something akin to redemption on his mind. Someone perceived as an ally turns out to have mayhem on their mind, and Charlie's Angels have to stop them. As a twist, that shouldn't come as a surprise, considering the touting of Demi Moore's screen return as an evil Angel.

Um, you guys do know this was a sketch on Mad TV
making fun of Charlie's Angels, right?
Credited screenwriters John August, Cormac Wibberley and Marianne Wibberley try to add a little thematic subtext. We can never run from our pasts (oh, very good, nice lesson, thank you), as Dylan (Drew Barrymore) discovers when an ex-boyfriend (Justin Theroux, chewing scenery with the best of them) returns from prison to kill her.

But of course, there's also the idea that she's found a new life among the Angels, and who she is now is far more important than who she was when she was the improbably named Helen Zass. (In case you don't get that joke, don't worry, the movie spends five minutes straight beating it, throwing water on it to revive it, then beating it back into unconsciousness again.)

Other than that, though, the finished product is more like a party game than a story. It's as if the designers all went off on their own and delivered a whole bunch of different scene ideas without telling the others what they were doing. Pity those poor screenwriters who had to try and leap from place to place with some semblance of logic. Clearly, McG didn't care.

Included in that logic: a new Bosley facilitates the relationship between Charlie and his Angels, played by a largely wasted Bernie Mac. The script makes an almost clever attempt to explain his brotherhood to Bill Murray, but McG has so little idea how to handle a scene that isn't loud and stupid that you might just miss what the explanation is.

Secretly, he thinks he's in a David Lynch film.
And how do they then explain the first Bosley, David Doyle? Because this film makes it absolutely clear that these Angels are following in the, let's say, footsteps of the original holy trinity of Farrah Fawcett, Kate Jackson and Jacqueline Smith. As have others, hence Moore's role. There's an Angels alumni newsletter. To complete the reach back, Smith even makes an amber-lit cameo to offer advice to a forlorn Barrymore.

I can't specifically say what that cameo pays homage to besides the original series, but I know that it must. Because visually, though there are a lot of cool things to look at, they're all stolen from some other filmmakers. When a wall of flames springs up after a warehouse explosion, I prayed that there wouldn't be a T2 reference, but sure enough, there it was. And then I laughed, damn me, even though it's not even Robert Patrick doing the bit. But he is elsewhere in the movie. It's a bunch of music videos edited together, relying heavily on pop cultural references for their coolness cache.

When the references aren't enough, Full Throttle loads on the cameos, just like a wacky sixties sex comedy. McG does have the sense to linger on these celebrities just long enough for you to realize who they are, though Bruce Willis really does look like he wandered in from another movie entirely.

So if there's no coherence, what is there? Silly playground sex jokes and skimpy outfits by the truckload, that's for sure. If you haven't seen Cameron Diaz shake her ass nearly enough for your taste, it's here. There are a few jokes lifted out of the cartoon pages of Playboy. In fact, it's a lot like a porn film comedy, except without the…oh, wait, no, Pink does have a cameo.

Pink. I just had to hammer home the joke.
Lucy Liu does a ferret impression, and then turns into a literal kitten with a whip in a strangely unerotic strip club scene, both in service to a wacky mix-up, stop me if you've heard this one, where her father (John Cleese) thinks she's a nurse until her boyfriend (Matt LeBlanc) explains about Charlie, except, hee hee, I'm dying here, the dad thinks Charlie is a pimp whoring out his daughter.

And hilarious hijinks ensue.

The really annoying thing is that it really is hilarious. Only the scenes involving Bosley and his family taking in an orphaned Shia LeBouef allow for you to stop and think, crap, this is stupid. The rest of the time, everybody has thrown themselves into the whole thing with such gleeful abandon that it's hard not to get seduced by the lights, the sounds, and the smell of the midway.

What? You need a couple of bucks for a deep-fried Twinkie? Okay. Here you go. You kids have fun, now.

What's It Worth?

For Those With Critical Faculties: $2

For Those Who Promise To Leave Their Brains In The Car: $7

Derek McCaw

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