Good news, movie fans: If you’ve ever wanted to see Kristen Stewart as a slightly randy, very random, butt-kicking international dirtbag of mystery, you’re in luck. That is exactly what Elizabeth Banks’ “Charlie’s Angels” delivers.
And it’s a treat. Swinging a seemingly Bill Murray-inspired rapscallion attitude, Stewart is not only pretty darn great at it, but she appears to be having a ball, too. Liberated from the confines of moody teen fare and international art house dramas, she eats up every comedic opportunity she gets. For whatever else you think of Banks’ reboot, we have her to thank for this rather ingenious and refreshing comedic turn from K-Stew.
With the help of co-writers Evan Spiliotopoulos and David Auburn, Banks has dusted off the lady-spy franchise that was once a cheesy ’70s sitcom, and of course, a McG-directed blockbuster from the early 2000s. They’ve given it an empowering update, full of therapy-sanctioned self-acceptance language and social justice-oriented clients, but the formula remains the same: babes kicking butt. What’s not to like?
In this crew, guided by a cabal of international “Bosleys” (Banks, Patrick Stewart, Djimon Hounsou), we have Stewart’s sexy and chaotic Sabina, a Park Avenue princess and former juvenile delinquent, never without a non sequitur, often clad in sequins. She’s paired with former MI-6 agent Jane (Ella Balinska), the muscle of the operation. The trio is completed when they fold corporate whistleblower and software engineer/hacker Elena (Naomi Scott) into their group and hit the road, on the hunt for (you guessed it) a world-ending doohickey, an energy-generating device developed by Elena that can also blow up and give people strokes. And it’s being sold to the highest bidder, somewhere in Turkey.
Banks’ directing is sturdy, serviceable and at times a bit unwieldy. But most important, she pitches the pace perfectly. Nothing ever lags, but she lets the movie breathe, allowing character to come through, for moments of oddball humor to land, and for relationships to build among the three women. Stewart and Balinska have an infectious chemistry, while Scott demonstrates her skill for screwball comedy.
Stewart has been a star for years, but she lets her wattage shine differently in “Charlie’s Angels.” Scott had her moment in the “Aladdin” remake. That makes Balinska the breakout star of “Charlie’s Angels,” not only thanks to her impressive physical presence, towering over Stewart and Scott, but with her jaw-dropping stunts and combat skills. It’s a joy to watch her absolutely wreck the shark-eyed, steampunk assassin Hodak (Jonathan Tucker), then land a punchline to boot.
“Charlie’s Angels” isn’t rocket science, but thanks to a charm offensive of stars, it’s an easy breezy blast of an action flick that delivers as many laughs as it does roundhouse kicks, and proves to be another fascinating entry in the Kristen Stewart canon. If every generation gets the “Charlie’s Angels” they deserve, this one’s in luck.
★★★ out of 4 stars
Rating: PG-13 for action/violence, language and suggestive material.