Dir: McG. US. 2003. 111 mins.
As its title suggests, the sequel to autumn 2000 hit Charlie's Angels revs up the goofy humour and preposterously gaudy action elements of the first movie - and leaves coherent narrative even further behind in the dust. Youthful moviegoers who helped the original to a $125m domestic gross are likely to turn out in even bigger numbers for the sequel, which opens in the US this weekend. Some calculated cast additions should pull in larger contingents from other demographic groups as well, though the broader audience may not have as much tolerance for the sequel's gleefully flaky style and Attention Deficit Disorder pacing. The cast additions will also provide an added boost outside the US, where increased public awareness might allow Full Throttle to top the original's impressive $139m international take.
Besides stars Diaz, Barrymore and Liu as the Angels - the private investigators first introduced in the mid-seventies TV series that made a global pin-up of Farrah Fawcett - the sequel also re-employs pop video director McG and most of the first film's below the line team. The original's John August worked with Cormac and Marianne Wibberley (I Spy) on the script.
The eminently disposable story concerns two rings, used to store information on the Federal Witness Protection Program, that the Angels must recover before a disgruntled former employee of Charlie's flogs them off to the Mafia. The plot, however, is really just an excuse to put the Angels through their paces and bring a few new characters into the mix.
The Angels - Diaz' giggly, disco-loving Natalie, Barrymore's tomboyish Dylan and Liu's brainy Alex. - get more of a domestic life this time out (Luke Wilson and Matt LeBlanc reappear as boyfriends). But the film puts most of its energy into the trio's working escapades, as the Angels tackle an array of villains with effects-enhanced martial arts or go undercover in a variety of bizarre guises - as nuns, strippers, surfers and, strangest of all, welders.
The cast newcomers are led by a lean and mean Demi Moore (making her first screen appearance since 2000's Passion Of Mind), who does an enjoyable turn as a menacing former Angel. Bernie Mac (from Head Of State and TV's The Bernie Mac Show) replaces Bill Murray as Charlie's bumbling lieutenant Bosley and though his presence will help draw black audiences his comic style never quite fits in with the film's wacky tone. John Cleese mugs his way through a couple of scenes as Alex's Dad, Theroux (Mullholland Drive) goes over the top as an Irish psycho and Brazilian TV star Rodrigo Santoro appears, very briefly, as a hunky bad guy. Fleeting cameos come from Jaclyn Smith (one of the original TV Angels), Bruce Willis, singer Pink and several other unusual suspects.
McG directs with a sense of abandon that only the success of the first film (also his debut feature) could have bought him. The narrative lurches rather than develops, nearly every scene is given a new visual style and the action is backed by almost 40 soundtrack songs, ranging from seventies disco and pop - frequently the cue for one or more of the Angels to break into a dance routine - to techno and hip hop.
The action sequences are bigger and flashier than in the first film, though the Angels themselves still use martial arts rather than guns against their adversaries. The martial arts special effects, once again choreographed by Hong Kong veteran Cheung-Yan Yuen, are slick but not particularly original.
Action set pieces include a moderately exciting street luge sequence and an eye-catching but incomprehensible motocross racing episode that overdoses on stunt riding and slo-mo martial arts acrobatics.
The saucy, self-referential sense of humour from the first film is given more play in the sequel and produces some funny moments, though it feels less fresh this time around.
Prod cos: Columbia Pictures, Flower Films, Tall Trees Productions, Wonderland Sound and Vision.
Prods: Leonard Goldberg, Drew Barrymore, Nancy Juvonen.
Exec prods: Jenno Topping, Patrick Crowley.
Scr: John August, Cormac Wibberley & Marianne Wibberley.
DoP: Russell Carpenter.
Prod des: J Michael Riva.
Ed: Wayne Wahrman.
Music: Edward Shearmur.
Main cast: Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore, Lucy Liu, Bernie Mac, Crispin Glover, Justin Theroux, Robert Patrick, Demi Moore.