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. Even if you never knew you wanted that, you’re still in luck, because that is exactly what Elizabeth Banks’s “Charlie’s Angels” delivers. And it’s a treat.
Swinging a seemingly Bill Murray-inspired rapscallion ‘tude, 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 arthouse dramas, it seems Stewart hasn’t had this much fun in ages, so forgive her for eating up every comedic opportunity she gets. For whatever else you think of Banks’s “Charlie’s Angels” 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, the McG-directed blockbuster from the era of problematic feminism known as the early 2000s. They’ve given it an empowering update, full of therapy-sanctioned self-acceptance language and social justice-oriented clients (not that there’s anything wrong with that), but the formula remains the same: babes kicking butt. What’s not to like? One detail they could have done away with is a wholly unnecessary documentary montage of international girls and women scampering happily about during the title credits. Girl Power, we got it.
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 many shiny sequins. She’s paired with the incredible former MI-6 agent Jane (Ella Balinska), the muscle of the operation and the Felix to Sabina’s Oscar in this odd couple matchup.
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 do-hickey. It’s 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’s directing is sturdy, serviceable and at times a bit unwieldy. But most importantly, 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 between the three women. Stewart and Balinska have an infectious chemistry, while Scott demonstrates her skill for screwball comedy.
Stewart has been a star for decades, but she lets her wattage shine differently in “Charlie’s Angels.” Scott had her breakout turn last year, in the “Aladdin” remake. That makes Balinska the breakout star of “Charlie’s Angels,” not only due to her impressive physical presence, towering over Stewart and Scott, but with her jaw-dropping stunts and combat skills. It’s simply a joy to watch her absolutely wreck the shark-eyed, steampunk assassin Hodak (Jonathan Tucker), then land a punchline on it 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.