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Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle

Seen: 2003.07.01   ¶   Reviewed: 2003.07.06 & .09

I was quite expecting it not to make sense. I was not expecting the girls to smile their way through a crime caper, accomplishing feats of impossible strength, agility, and impregnability (not so much as a bruise on these girls) merely because they find it so easy it becomes fun.

One was delighted to read Anthony Lane, in reviewing the first (of an unending sequence of?) Charlie’s Ankles, express amazement at the name of the director, McG. He wondered what would be next – a movie directed by the Hamburglar or Mayor McCheese? Nobody’s Perfect, p. 329: “Who is responsible for Charlie’s Angels? According to the credits, it was ‘directed by McG,’ thus raising the intriguing prospect of the world's first motion picture to be made by a hamburger.” But so help me, I remember someone writing that. Now, for what it’s worth, I have.

McG self-describes, according to a fawning, stage-managed GQ profile, as being one chromosome removed from a flaming homosexualist. I believe it: Apart from his clothes, consider the extravagant tinted colour palette and the fondness for hyper-pneumatic babes in trouble. (And nobody, but nobody, smiles the way Cameron Diaz does. One recalls her rather disturbing dialogue in Vanilla Sky.)

Does this explain why the most dour, doctrinaire invert feminist in Toronto wrote a self-contradictory, unintelligible manifesto claiming Charlie’s Ankles: Full Throttle as lesbic?

I liked the premise, actually – strong cryptography as embodied in two partial keys encoded into titanium rings. Why not? A physical encoding medium is much more likely to survive infopocalypse. In fact, it’s a premise for a TV series about infopocalypse, rather along the lines of Jeremiah. Our Ankles are charged with recovering the two rings, lest the fabled witness protection program, whose protectees’ names are encoded with the cryptography, get 0wnz0red.

Well. I liked the motocross sequence, at any rate. It was a Troy Lee infomercial, but the android-like body armour, insane bike paint jobs, and ever-shifting fake backdrop colours (even switching from sharp to blurry within a shot) were a glorious example of falsifying reality to tell the truth. Except I suppose this was not strictly true, since Newtonian physics was suspended in mid-air as cyclists paused forward motion to kick each other sideways off their bikes.

It seems that only Bernie Mac can make black jokes work. The Irish jokes I’m not so sure about. Except the “black Irish” jokes uttered by Bernie Mac, which are classic.

Was there even really a story here? One that I have to recap?

But wait. I don’t do recaps.

Smarter Cinéaste

My problem in writing these “reviews” – discursions, really – is shaking off the lingering vestiges of oldschool film reviewing. I suppose it’s time to reveal my 21ème-siècle theory of film criticism. After the manner of Smarter Times, where there is no attempt to be first or original with anything but rather to provide sober second thought, here in the 21st century, somebody really needs to start a Smarter Cinéaste site that reviews the reviewers, rather after the manner of the old Spy Review of Reviewers. It is easier than ever to learn the premise of a film and how well that premise is achieved, and now there are hundreds of online film-review sources, including every newspaper and magazine in creation. Let’s all stop pretending to be original. Let’s stop wasting our time recapping when we can assume a basic knowledge of the film. Let’s go meta.

I see my purpose, then, as providing an assortment of small details that some later Smarter Cinéaste could aggregate into a larger mosaic view of how critics viewed a picture. It’s a valuable historical angle made much easier by the Web, which can be aggregated and summarized more readily than print can. Except here my small details are, among others, related to accessibility, which I want placed on the record. (Did you know I’m finally indexed in MRQE?)

Thus when there’s no story to speak of, I shouldn’t be expected to fill you in on the nearly-nonexistent story. I have another purpose.

Theatre experience

Right. Ms S accompanied me to our extravaganza today. This had been the plan for a while.

The same excellent manageress as for The Hulk was on duty, so I complimented her on her work that day. Then we had a wee problem, since the other playa wanted me to sign myself up. I pointed out that people should not do so, since they could then read everyone else’s names. The manageress agreed that was a good point, and said that hopefully that sort of thing could be passed on to management so it could be standardized. But it’s been two years, I said, somewhat too testily. I’ve been to 40 of these movies. It’s different every time.

Caption quality

Trying hard to epitomize the musical score: (fanfare ends and segues into foreboding theme). segue is a bit of a trendy term and extremely difficult to read in the shitty display font. Blends, transitions, glides. Later, ("The Lonely Goatherd" from "The Sound of Music" plays). (up-tempo "Planet Clair" playing) is one of several notations of tempo and style.

(record needle scratches,)
falcon screeches)

Bit of an errant parenthesis there.

♪ Never,
never, never, never, ♪

Errant comma.

(music and shouting stops): No, stop.

Every tawdry techno single in the universe is included in the soundtrack, and also “Mickey” by Tony Basil, miscaptioned in the now-traditional GBH I-don’t-know-nothing-’bout-them-vocatives style: ♪ Oh Mickey, you're so fine ♪.

A mysterious creature is viewed from behind twice or three times. Naturally, it has to be Demi Moore, who’s had lots of work done and is acting in full-on queen-bitch mode here. She’s audio-described as “a long-haired individual” and speaks Mandarin, I think, at certain points. (Asian language is a caption used at other points.) My question is: Was the voice IDed as that of a woman? I missed it while jotting notes. [Later, unrelated: (mock Chinese accent).]

As ever, titles of films and suchlike should be rendered without quotation marks in this roman-type-only medium, but they are not, leading to other errors, like "Maximum Extreme 2". with the period outside the quotation marks.

Here’s a weird one, and further evidence of the unwise use of dashes to introduce multiple speakers:

-Pleasure  -Hi.

No period, and two utterances on the same line. We do have four to work with. And anyway, GBH can’t make up its mind whether to use placement or dashes.

Yeah, it is.

Yeah, it is.




A rather appalling caption break:

CHARLIE: Max is in our
protective ¶
custody now,


Mother, do you ¶
recognize this man?


Beyond the Galaxy ¶

Don't let 'em get away! should be IDed to MAN:.

The movie’s own subtitles were awful, typeset in Arial (if memory serves) with neutral apostrophes and their own vocative errors, as in Bring it on Bitch!

We never know when she'd have to go out on a "job", huh?

Someday GBH will stop being too proud to alter its methods merely because I’m right about what needs to be altered. And you know, that is going on. Right up to the top of the organization, GBH would prefer to deny they make any mistakes at all rather than correct them – merely because I’m the one doing the correcting. The same holds for Famous Players. Grow up, for heaven’s sake. You’ve got someone doing free quality control, fixing mistakes you should have caught yourselves.

Description quality

Miles Neff narrates.

“Revealing his Asian features”; “revealing her smooth Asian features”: I guess we’ve decided to note those “features.” Now, why don’t we say that Bernie Mac is Bernie black? Later: “A bearded black man.”

“Offering a glimpse of her white panties”: Here and in the strip-show scene, I wondered if I was finally watching the equivalent of described porn. I found it slightly dissonant and disturbing while it happened. Perhaps that’s just me.

“As the grey-haired, stubble-faced civil agent flips through a file”: Let’s go to any lengths necessary to use words like “handsome.” But elsewhere: “They watch a buff, bare-chested man jog by.” And “the crystal-blue water curves around her well-defined, bikini-clad body.” And “the orange light accents his bare rippled stomach.” He’s still ugly as shite, though.

“She flips a spiky-haired man on his back”: It’s actually B-list television actor Matt LeBlanc, with his strange spelling of a New Brunswick surname. Is that really the best way to describe him?

“A bushy mullet haircut”: I suppose so. Perhaps an unintended reference in an all-girl (“lesbic”) picture.

There’s an “organizer” and later a “female organizer.” They’re the same person. What gives?

I am pretty sure an average blind person could not understand what was going on during the motocross scene. I believe much less literal descriptions are necessary during scenes with extended visual effects. Panic Room’s treatment of flying right into and through walls was appropriately detailed, but it seems everything since then has been overly literal and step-by-step. Sometimes you can just tell us what happens rather than exactly how, in subatomic detail.

“Gel spikes his short hair into a mohawk”: Well, we have no visual proof of how it’s spiked, but beyond that, it’s a fauxhawk, not a mohawk! You have to shave the rest of your head for the latter. And one or two fellas I’ve seen with fauxhawks – yea verily, including David Beckham – look astounding in them. Not Justin Theroux, though. The first 21st-century haircut, and one of the few truly three-dimensional male hairstyles. (Fiendishly difficult to find a good photo of a fauxhawk online.) For the first time in years, I actually regret having too little hair.

Right. Where were we?

“Seamus picks up the blade and duels with him”: No, with her! He’s the only male in that scene.

A title reading “Right now” and one other were not read aloud, including those of various crime clans. In most of those cases, there was no time, though.

“Breaks open a bottle of champagne”: Actually, she slices the neck with a knife. There’s a word for that: “Bards” a bottle of champagne? I can never look that one up. Sabrage, actually.

“His jaw hangs open”: It doesn’t “gape”? “Alex and Natalie’s jaws drop”: Ditto? “As she gets down on one knee to reach it, Dylan gapes.”

Madison Lee is described as the “rogue Angel” at least twice. “Their renegade predecessor opens her silky cape wide.”

She “pretend-slaps their faces”: Loved it! “They point their arms straight up in a disco pose”: Not quite straight, and wouldn’t we say “index fingers”? Good try, though.

The poster for Maximum Extreme 2 (ME-2) is exactly like that of MI-2. I believe it was impossible to note that. Visual puns and ironic references... I dunno how to handle those.

“The Thin Man reaches out to her, a desperate passion contorting his face”: We’ve certainly crossed the line into interpretation there. Better: “His face contorted.”

“A photo of Bosley’s white brother hangs on the wall”: It’s Bill Murray as John Bosley. Bernie Mac is actually playing Jimmy Bosley. They’re half-brothers. I don’t know where to begin to fix that one.

Credit cookies include outtakes. “Another outtake.” “Now, a watery view through the Porsche [pronounced “porsh”] windshield reveals the three sexy women.”

“Credits” are announced, then “end credits.” I believe the convention is “remaining opening credits.”

Ja’Net Dubois (blast from the past or what?) is read as Zhanay DuBois. Who knows? It might be.


A (pointer slams) and a (whip cracks), but the description for both is actually the same, because it’s all a single phenomenon, “caning a desk.”

Exit interview

During end credits, a perky red-haired chick came over to ask what the headphones were for. I handed them to her. Unfortunately, hard-to-understand credits were being read. She took them off. “Audio description for the –” “You do what?” “Audio description for blind and visually-impaired.” Ms S chimed in with an explanation. We also tried to explain the captioning.


“Okay,” she said, still smiling. I am pretty sure she didn’t understand any of it at all, and yet again I flubbed in explaining the system post-show. I am rather embarrassed about my near-consistent failures in that regard.

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