Screenshot / Lucy Liu / Charlie’s Angels Trailer
Cameron Diaz, wearing a golden bikini and blue-tinted shades, steers a speedboat. She’s squinting upwards, toward the tangle of bodies skyrocketing toward her.
The first to parachute-land next to her is Lucy Liu, resplendent in spandex. With her she carries the bad guy, who she’s just helped kidnap from a plane. Next to them lands LL Cool J.
“You crazy bastard!” cries our baddie – crawling away from Cool J.
Suddenly, off comes the skinsuit, to reveal a perfectly lipsticked Drew Barrymore.
“I think you mean crazy bitch.”
So opens the first five minutes of 2000’s Charlie’s Angels – the playful movie reboot of a beloved 70s TV show.
As an intro, it does everything it needs to. It establishes our three crime-fighting heroes, shares a glimpse into their day-to-day, offers some wicked fashion, and – most importantly – politely demands we suspend all disbelief early. This film is wild, it tells us – and it’s only getting started.
People who weren’t actually around in the early 2000s will likely never grasp exactly how camp a time it really was.
Let me put it this way: Legally Blonde, The Princess Diaries, Bridget Jones’ Diaries, Josie and the Pussycats, Shallow Hal, The Wedding Planner, Moulin Rouge, Amélie, Ghost World and The Royal Tenenbaums all came out in 2001 alone.
IN 2001 ALONE!
Beating them all by exactly one year, was the Diaz, Barrymore and Liu Charlie’s Angels reboot. Two years later came the even better Full Throttle.
Meanwhile, in 2019, creative media is desperately married to realism. TV shows like The Handmaid’s Tale and Unbelievable go to great pains to show us the world in the starkest lighting possible. Shows made explicitly for teenagers, like 13 Reasons Why and Euphoria, preface their episodes with trigger warnings – the following teen comedy contains graphic and realistic portrayals of assault, drug addiction, suicide et al.
If a director in 2001 were tasked with making a film about a clown and/or a stripper, they would likely come back with a bawdy adolescent romp. In 2019 we get Joker and Hustlers – intense character studies that take themselves seriously.
And… sometimes a girl misses the campy days of yore.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m obsessed with The Handmaid’s Tale. I loved Unbelievable. And I’m planning to be on the frontlines of J.Lo’s Oscar campaign. But I don’t think it’s a coincidence this year’s MET Gala theme was Camp: Notes on Fashion.
We live in serious times. Climate Change has never felt more pressing. Donald Trump is (STILL) president.
We are yearning for relief.
So… I can’t help pursing my lips, Miranda Priestley style, at the new Charlie’s Angels trailer.
The last thing we need, in this era of repression and rage, is a khaki-coloured reboot of a primary-coloured classic.
The Diaz, Barrymore, Liu franchise – inexplicably capped at two films – is a masterwork. While at once a brazen vehicle for sexual titillation, it somehow manages to subvert the very tropes it exploits. In one memorable scene, Barrymore, dressed in Farrah Fawcett homage, licks a man’s steering wheel while Liu installs a camera in his trunk.
If the films mock anyone, they mock their male targets. These guys just make it easy for them. When one male victim stresses that there are 50 armed men outside, Liu deadpans “I know… it hardly seems fair.”
Upon rewatch, Liu is undoubtedly the franchise's gem. Beyond bringing some necessary diversity to the line-up, she delivers her lines with a drier comedic touch than Diaz and Barrymore, who both take the more obvious punchlines.
And, speaking of diversity, I'm thrilled to see queer goddess Kristen Stewart taking up the Angel stance, but I doubt we could get anything gayer than Demi Moore’s spittle on Cameron Diaz’s cheek.
Feminism has often had a terse relationship with camp. Where feminism, by its nature, is serious, camp deals in high-femme stereotypes. Of course the two have jarred.
But sometimes a girl just wants to throw off the shackles and indulge in some wildly unbelievable ass-kicking.
The 2000s Charlie’s Angels reboot is, of course, incredibly problematic, and I’m sure the 2019 version goes some way to righting those wrongs. But I do hope they haven’t chucked the fun along with the bathwater.
If they have… at least we’ve got Villanelle.
Saving that, there’s always a 2001 binge-sesh.Support Villainesse