Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Throttled

Though I have more important things to do, tonight I was revisiting Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle, which I TiVoed the other day. I'd really wanted to like the movie back when it came out, and since then, I'd always kind of wanted to see it again, but could never bring myself to pay for it.

Watching it again, it seems clearer why the movie fails. It's not that the even more over-the-top stunts defy not only real physics but also cartoon physics and seem to operate on the opposite of any conceivable logic. I can enjoy that. It's not even what made me uncomfortable the first time around--the way the sexy parts seemed to cross over into sleazy leering, and the unresolved dirtiness of the running joke where John Cleese thinks they're whores (although the Cleese joke is still unfunny and way too drawn out).

The movie doesn't work simply because whenever the camera isn't whirling around distracting us with T&A or ludicrous action, every scene is dead in the water. Whenever a character starts talking, beware. The comic dialogue is staged and edited with zero flair or timing. Or, for that matter, comedy.

The dialogue scenes are either straight exposition (if you're lucky) or an excuse for the characters to riff and crack each other up (as they do in the interminable bit about Drew Barrymore's pre-witness-protection name, Helen Zass, or the pointless bit where the Bosleys play Clue). But the jokes aren't actually funny, so what you have are long scenes where characters aren't being funny or advancing the story. It's like the camera's just running, and no one really knows why. It's quite dreadful. These are the scenes that make the movie oppressive instead of fun, by constantly reminding us that the actors are having a great time, while we're just watching people who think they're hilarious having a better time than we are. And we really don't care whether Cameron Diaz and Luke Wilson are getting a puppy together.

I guess this is pretty obvious. After the first Charlie's Angels, anyone would expect that the actual dramatic parts would be the weakest part of the movie. Maybe because I was expecting so little from them, I overlooked them last time. After all, the first movie was good even though those scenes were bad, so it didn't occur to me that the leadenness of dialogue scenes could be what sank the sequel. The problem is here they're given more weight and screen time, and it's deadly.

I'm not sure if a movie with McG's glossy, heightened energy ever could manage a switch to a scene natural enough to handle comedy, drama, or any emotion besides the visceral excitement and tongue-in-cheek pleasures of his action scenes. But these inherently undramatic, horribly indulgent scenes certainly don't help.

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