Over the last decade, seismic changes to the cinematic landscape have left pretty much every Hollywood studio, bar Disney, in a bind.
The influx of streaming services, the continued excellence of the small screen, and the smaller window between theatrical and home entertainment releases mean that audiences now need a really good reason to leave the house to watch a movie. As a result, the likes of 20th Century Fox, Warner Bros, Paramount and Sony have repeatedly spent hundreds of millions of dollars adapting already established franchises and intellectual properties in an attempt to attract and then build upon their fanbases.
In recent years, Sony has actually proven rather adept at recognising holes in the movie market and then filling them with new, big-screen versions of the likes of Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, The Equalizer, 21 Jump Street, Goosebumps, The Angry Birds Movie, Peter Rabbit, Jumanji, and Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse. Each of these have been so successful that they've been, or soon will be, followed by a sequel, too.
Sony are looking to continue this success with Charlie's Angels, a semi-reboot that is actually set in the same world as both the beloved 1970s action series and the two movies from the early 2000s. Kristen Stewart, Naomi Scott and Ella Balinska step into the lead roles originally made famous by Farrah Fawcett, Kate Jackson and Jaclyn Ladd, who were then followed by Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore and Lucy Liu.
In the 2019 incarnation, writer and director Elizabeth Banks, who also has a prominent role in the film, shows us the origin story of how the three ladies met and worked together to actually become Charlie’s Angels. And, despite some unevenness, Banks does a pretty impressive job of tackling not just the action and comedy on their own, but combining them, while the entire film is powered by a proud feminist message that it is hard not to get wrapped up in.
Admittedly, it takes a while for Charlie's Angels to find its feet, though. In fact, it is only during the enjoyably hectic finale that the action-comedy really feels like the crowd-pleaser it has tried so hard to be for the previous 90 minutes, as the three leads and the strong supporting cast, which includes Patrick Stewart, Noah Centineo and Sam Claflin, all come together to enhance and build upon what's come before. Even its closing credits sequence does just that, too. It is so delightful that you'll leave the cinema hoping for a follow-up just so you can see these Angels in more adventures.
Before that point, though, Charlie's Angels never quite manages to genuinely captivate or feel worthwhile. Banks packs the film with more than enough set-pieces, as the ladies go on a high-speed car chase in Hamburg, expertly break into a research facility, and then fight in a Turkish racecourse and quarry in quick succession, each of which are adequately assembled and gently entertaining. However, Charlie's Angels is waylaid by a nonexistent plot, while there are two twists that don't come close to landing the expected impact and instead only deflate what has come before.
Fortunately for Banks and Charlie's Angels, it is constantly saved by Stewart, who completely steals every scene she is in with her hilarious performance as Sabina Wilson. As a veteran of the comedy genre, Banks uses Stewart perfectly, while the actress revels in being the comedic relief, and as a result injects an energy and camaraderie that means that even at its worst, Charlie's Angels is at least watchable.
In her role as Elena Houghlin, the engineer that helped to design but then exposes a dangerous piece of technology that the Angels are trying to destroy, Scott also proves why she is one of the most promising young actors working in Hollywood today.
She holds her own alongside Stewart and Banks, both of whom have nearly a decade's worth of mainstream experience on the Power Rangers and Aladdin actress, while managing to go from strong-willed intellectual to overwhelmed amateur Angel to bonafide hero rather seamlessly, too.
During its beginning and middle, Charlie's Angels is at its best when Banks, Stewart and Scott are on-screen, especially as Balinska has some teething problems as Jane Kano. The 23-year-old, who makes her mainstream debut in this feature, is distractingly flat until the final act, where she showcases an athleticism and presence that proves why she was cast.
In a way, Balinska's trajectory perfectly embodies the entire experience of watching Charlie's Angels, which, even though it has some obvious shortcomings, ultimately has enough humour, heart and good intentions to make up for them.