‘Charlie’s Angels’ Doesn’t Do Much to Justify Its Existence in 2019, Except When It Gets Really Silly

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CREDIT: Chiabella James/Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Entertainment

Starring: Kristen Stewart, Naomi Scott, Ella Balinska, Elizabeth Banks, Patrick Stewart, Djimon Hounsou, Sam Claflin, Noah Centineo, Nat Faxon

Director: Elizabeth Banks

Running Time: 119 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 for Deafening Explosions and a Lot of Flexible Legwork

Release Date: November 15, 2019

Globetrotting in 2019: who needs it? I, for one, cannot say I find it particularly necessary after watching the 2019 edition of Charlie’s Angels. As three gadget-toting, butt-kicking, espionage-deploying young women chase a McGuffin around multiple continents, what do they, or any person of any age for that matter, have to offer us that we haven’t been offered before? Maybe something new is theoretically out there somewhere, but what I see are mostly a bunch of competently (and frequently goofily) staged action scenes. I’ve never previously seen any Charlie’s Angels TV episode or movie in its entirety, but the main feeling this one gave me was a nagging sense of “been there, done that.” (Although, it is worth noting, there is nary a whiff of the “three little girls” paternalistic energy of the original.)

Despite that shortcoming, I suspect that Elizabeth Banks, who wrote and directed and also stars as Bosley (or rather, one of the Bosleys), is not necessarily too worried by the plot being overly paint-by-numbers. As long as our new batch of Angels (Kristen Stewart, Naomi Scott, and Ella Sabinska) get to show off some personality, there can be a feature-length rasion d’être. For the most part, they just go where the story demands that they go, but occasionally there are flashes of extreme goofball energy. Naomi Scott wears a fantastic red dress because why not? K-Stew makes “beep boop” noises while cracking a safe just for the hell of it. And then during the credits there is an onslaught of cameos: a few make obvious sense for this movie, but most of them are breathtakingly, delightfully random. So at least there’s a little bit of fun to get these angels flying.

Charlie’s Angels is Recommended If You Like: Flirting with Noah Centineo, Original pop soundtracks

Grade: 2.5 out of 5 Bosleys

Movie Review: ‘Aladdin’ Grants Our Wish for an Illuminating Disney Remake

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CREDIT: Daniel Smith/Disney

Starring: Mena Massoud, Will Smith, Naomi Scott, Marwin Kenzari, Navid Negahban, Nasim Pedrad, Numan Acar, Billy Magnussen

Director: Guy Ritchie

Running Time: 128 Minutes

Rating: PG for Vividly Fantastical Wish Fulfillment

Release Date: May 24, 2019

One of the best possible values of Disney’s recent spate of remakes is something typically associated with theatrical revivals, i.e., the space to illuminate and expand upon the messages of the original. With that in mind, Guy Ritchie’s rendition of Aladdin is one of the best entries in this trend because of how much it emphasizes what worked about the original and how successful it is with its new elements. Both versions are clear, thorough, and simple about explaining their character motivations, which sounds like it should be a basic tenet of storytelling, and it is (except when you want to be ambiguous), but sometimes filmmakers get distracted by the bells and whistles.

While the details are fun and fancy, the main ideas are what keep Aladdin flying along. We know that Aladdin and Jasmine are smitten each other, we know that Genie wants his freedom, we know that Jafar is power-hungry, and we know that the Sultan wants what is best for his kingdom and his daughter. The circumstances that frustrate or reward these desires are understandable and internally consistent, which adds up to a formula for a satisfying story.

So Ritchie and his co-screenwriter John August know what clicks about the meat of what they’ve got here – how about the fresh flavors they add? Casting is key here, and that is a success across the board. Mena Massoud (Aladdin), Naomi Scott (Jasmine), and Marwin Kenzari (Jafar) are mainly playing variations of what came before, while Navid Negahban’s Sultan is much sterner than, though just as lovable as, Douglas Seale’s goofball version. Nasim Pedrad and Billy Magnussen provide a good chunk of the comic relief as a couple of new characters, a saucy handmaiden to Jasmine who can totally get it and a very sweet, but way-of-his-depth, Scandinavian-ish suitor, respectively.

Of course, the question everyone is parroting is: does Genie Will Smith grant audiences their wishes? There were plenty of concerns after trailer footage suggested that a blue Fresh Prince was maybe a little too creepy for comfort. Frankly, though, I have spent this whole time believing that any weirdness is this movie’s biggest asset. And ultimately anyway, I believe that the CGI threads the needle between off-putting and palatable. (Although I’m not sure how necessary his jacked torso is.) Smith is reverent to Robin Williams’ iconic performance, but his Genie is just as unique. He’s operating at the height of Big Willie style, the sort of confidante who knows just how to swag out confidence and perception to everyone’s advantage. We have had a friend like him before, but we could always use another.

Aladdin is Recommended If You Like: Aladdin (1992), Big Willie Style, Willennium, Sitcom episodes with Nasim Pedrad guest appearances

Grade: 3.5 out of 5 Magic Carpets