No, Charlie’s Angels is not a documentary about Charlie Rose’s tenure at CBS News. It’s another reboot of the 70s TV show which was already rebooted once in the early 2000s. Unfortunately for writer and director Elizabeth Banks, the latest reboot featuring Kristen Stewart, Naomi Scott, and Ella Balinska in the roles made famous by Farrah Fawcett, Kate Jackson, and Jaclyn Smith was a bomb over the weekend:
Sony’s action comedy “Charlie’s Angels” sputtered out of the gate with an uninspiring $8.6 million from 3,452 venues, landing in third place between Lionsgate’s war drama “Midway” ($8.75 million) and Paramount’s family film “Playing With Fire” ($8.5 million)…
“Charlie’s Angels,”…wasn’t able to entice its core audience of younger females and arrived well behind domestic box office projections (the studio was anticipating a start closer to $13 million). Though co-financing partners will help offset any potential losses for Sony, “Charlie’s Angels” will now rely on overseas audiences to help recoup its $48 million production budget. At the international box office, the film bowed with $19 million.
So if you add that up, the film made just shy of $28 million worldwide and cost close to $50 million. That figure likely does not include the cost of promoting the film. Also, don’t forget that more than half of the box office will go to the exhibitor, so it’s pretty unlikely this is going to break even. And whose fault is that, you ask? Well, last week writer/director Banks gave an interview to the Herald Sun in which she said, “If this movie doesn’t make money it reinforces a stereotype in Hollywood that men don’t go see women do action movies.”
Well, no, that’s really not it. Speaking as one of the millions of men who didn’t go see this movie, I can tell you that I enjoyed Wonder Woman and think Mad Max: Fury Road is one of the best action films I’ve ever seen. So I don’t have a problem at all with women leading big action films. I don’t even have a problem with a little bit of feminist messaging so long as it serves the story. Fury Road’s entire theme was female empowerment but it was also an outstanding film which let the viewer absorb the message from the action rather than beating him over the head with silly statements.
But Charlie’s Angels looks like the latest in a line of recent Hollywood feminist empowerment reboots which would likely never get made except for the politics of the studios and filmmakers. The best known of these films is probably the Ghostbusters reboot which was a big, unfunny mess which nevertheless resulted in a lot of lectures about toxic fandom. That fact that Charlie’s Angel’s was part of this lineage is obvious from some of the reviews:
The girl-power vibe that provides the film’s energy is unmistakable and often exhilarating, but it can also be heavy-handed. We didn’t need an opening montage of girls and women doing awesome things around the globe; it’s clunky and feels out of place. Similarly, while it’s an intriguing and relevant detail that one of Jane’s former informants in Istanbul also runs a women’s clinic, we didn’t need to see the van full of birth control pills and tampons the Angels provide to understand that this is an important service.
Given the many hats Banks wears in the 2019 Charlie’s Angels, it’s no shock that the film’s first line is “I think women can do anything.” The opening moment is a mission statement. Delivered by the tough-talking Sabina Wilson (Kristen Stewart) to a sexist bad guy who’s seriously underestimating her ability to kick his ass, it sets the tone for a film that’s happy to provide the expected scenes of action and attractive women, but only on its own terms, with women supporting each other providing not-so-subtle empowerment messages. That may sound programmatic, but Banks cleverly weaves those messages into a mostly satisfying action movie where the best moments turn the film’s small scale into a virtue.
And those are from positive reviews! Here’s one that wasn’t so positive (minor spoiler here about an after-credits sequence):
In a post-credits sequence featuring some inexplicable cameo appearances, including teen snowboarding sensation Chloe Kim, we learn that Ruth Bader Ginsburg was at one time a Charlie’s Angel. It’s a telling reference, nodding to a specific yet widespread strain of entry-level feminism that focuses on idols over ideas and surfaces over what lies beneath them…
If we’ve got to have mediocre studio blockbusters, might as well bring a little diversity to the roster of people making them. But we’d all be much better off if feminism just got a new talent agent and started taking more worthy jobs.
Slate’s reviewer was particularly harsh of the attempt to co-opt her sympathies with feminist statements:
The latest iteration of Charlie’s Angels, unsurprisingly, is an extremely 2019 studio movie: self-consciously feminist (at one point a character sarcastically exclaims “girl power!”), notably diverse (while avoiding the subject of race), and painfully generic. It’s also the first Charlie’s anything to feature a woman behind the camera: Elizabeth Banks writes, directs, and co-stars as the first Angel to be promoted to Bosley status. The film is stuffed with noble intentions, starting with an early montage of anonymous girls and young women doing kickass things. But Banks’ vision of women-empowerment heaven plays more like a checklist of topics from the feminist discourse of the past few years than a coherent movie, let alone a crowd-pleasing one. The squeaky-clean cheerleading and “amirite, ladies?” elbowing meant to lull me into a state of sisterly contentment just made me miss McG’s sleazy camp.
Honestly, I’m not surprised this film bombed. This stuff is tiresome, even to people who are predisposed to agree with it. Unless you have a great story or some top-notch action to make it worth suffering all of this, why would anyone bother? Unfortunately, Hollywood keeps refusing to get the message. No doubt there will be another woke feminist reboot in theaters next summer.