The Tribune - Spectrum


Sunday, January 28, 2001
Wide Angle

A sequel that fails to impress
By Ervell E. Menezes

HOLLYWOOD revels in revivals, remakes and sequels. It is also happy to convert popular TV serials into films like "The X Files"and "Charlie’s Angles. Remember the 1970s serial that brought actresses like Farah Fawcett-Majors and Cheryl Ladd (daughter of actor Alan Ladd) to the fore. It ran from1976 to 1981. Now it is being made into a film with Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore and Lucy Liu as Charlie’s Angles.

"They’re beautiful, they’re brilliant, and they work for Charlie,’ says the screenplay and this trio of elite, private investigators are armed with the latest in high-tech tools, high-performance vehicles, martial arts techniques and a vast array of disguises which unleash their state -of -the-art skills on land, sea and air to achieve their objective. Shades of the guns, girls and gadget films of the late-1960s and heroes like James Bond, those men from U.N.C.L.E. (Robert Vaughn and Illya Kuryakin) and Mat Helm alias Dean Martin.

Cameron Diaz who first caught the public eye in "There’s Something About Mary", has the oomph required for such a role but the same cannot be said about Drew Barrymore. The child star of E.T - the Extra-Terrestrial is quite mediocre in Never Been Kissed and probably the only reason she’s in Charlie’s Angles is because she is a co-producer, trying to keep the Barrymore family flag flying. Lucy Liu, the Asian actress who was with Jackie Chan in Shanghai Noon is the third beauty and she’s much more impressive than Barrymore.

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Eric Knox (Sam Rockwell), the handsome, brainy founder of Knox Technologies, has just been kidnapped from his office. Knox has designed a voice-identification software programme that works more accurately than current fingerprinting techniques - a scientific breakthrough that would mean disaster in the wrong hands.

Following Knox’s disappearance, Knox Technologies chief Vivan Wood (Kelly Lynch) knows there’s only one man-and three smart, sexy detectives to turn to. Hired to track down Knox, Charlie’s Angles set their sights on his rival, Roger Corvin (Tim Curry) who owns Red Star Systems, the world’s largest telecom satellite network. Bosley (Bill Murray) is their faithful lieutenant but in these days of feminist films he is more like the proverbial "damsel in distress."

The screenplay by Ryan Rowe, Ed Solomon and John August is at best ordinary and debutant director McG who has made over 50 music videos continues in the same vein. It’s razzle-dazzle action and the quick cutting and editing doesn’t contribute to any degree of fluidity. Neither is the action really absorbing. In fact it tends to numb the senses. The only silver lining is the allusions to other films like the escape from an island a la The Rock. Then, instead of a dripping Ursula Andress coming out of the sea onto the sand you have three pretty women (guess, we’ll be polite and include Drew Barrymore) doing the dame in diving suits but that doesn’t make the sequence thrice as exciting.

Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz and Lucy Liu in Charlie’s AngelsThe weak plot is another handicap and guess it is a question of timing. What was popular in the 1970s need not be so in the new millennium but Hollywood never gives up trying. Cameron Diaz does her best to give the film some zing but that’s about all. The others, including Hollywood icon Bill Murray, are struggling all the time in an eminently avoidable entertainer which has little more than hype going for it.

Notting Hill is a big disappointment considering that the screen-play was written by Richard Curtis who worked wonders with Four Weddings & A Funeral, the most talked -about British film since Chariots of Fire. And to begin with Curtis’ idea is good, having a very normal person going out with an unbelievably famous person and how that person and his friends would react to such a situation.

Anna Scott (Julia Roberts) is the world’s most famous movie star with pictures of her plastered on the cover of every magazine . William Thacker (Hugh Grant) owns a travel book store where business is quite stagnant. Then Anna enters the book store and everything changes, even their two lives.

The idea is great but the execution poor. May be theatre and TV director Roger Michell has yet to find his feet in this new medium. If it is meant to capture the ambience of Notting Hill it does so only partially. But the love affair never really gels. Contrived, cliched and at best ordinary the film chugs along languorously. That two very talented players are cast in the lead roles doesn’t help. I felt Hugh Grant was brilliant in Four Weddings and yet so ordinary in Nine Months . In Notting Hill he is somewhere in between and though Julia Roberts does her best it is just not good enough.

A few good lines here and there and a chemistry that fails to pass the litmus test are all part of a very mixed bag. If one goes by Alexander Pope’s lines" blessed is he that expected nothing, for he shall never be disappointed," then well and good. Expect nothing of Notting Hill and then you might just find something.

Home This feature was published on January 21, 2001