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Pulp Culture
Charlie's newest
Angels just want
to have fun

November 9, 2000
By Franklin Harris

You always have to judge movies on their own terms. It's no good for me to say "Citizen Kane" is a better film than "The Matrix." They have nothing in common other than that they both succeed in telling the kind of story each sets out to tell.

From left, Lucy Lui, Cameron Diaz and Drew Barrymore try out their ''Matrix''-style movies in ''Charlie's Angels.''
Courtesy Photo Copyright Columbia Pictures Inc.
From left, Lucy Lui, Cameron Diaz and Drew Barrymore try out their "Matrix"-style moves in "Charlie's Angels."
That's how you have to approach a film like "Charlie's Angels." It's not "Citizen Kane," and it doesn't pretend to be. It's not even "The Matrix," although it resembles it in several ways. But it is what it wants to be, and that is a fun, entertaining and unabashedly mindless diversion.

Cameron Diaz ("There's Something About Mary"), Drew Barrymore ("Never Been Kissed") and Lucy Liu ("Ally McBeal") star as Natalie, Dylan and Alex. Admittedly, they have nothing on their TV counterparts. (I remain amazed that some people actually think Diaz is attractive.) But, nevertheless, they are the latest trio of detectives employed by the secretive Charles Townsend, voiced by the TV Charlie, John Forsythe.

It's up to them to stop a tycoon named Roger Corwin (Tim Curry) from stealing voice-identification software that, combined with his company's own global positioning system, will allow him to tap into any telephone conversation anywhere.

As an added complication, it appears Corwin has kidnapped the software's creator (Sam Rockwel), too.

But the plot, which takes a sudden, if not unexpected twist midway through, isn't important. What is important is that the Angels look good (well, except for Diaz, but I've already mentioned that) and kick butt.

The fight scenes, most of which involve the Angels and a silent, psychopathic henchman played by Crispin Glover, are straight out of "The Matrix" -- or any one of the Hong Kong action movies "The Matrix" borrows from. It's amazing that computers today can make Barrymore look like she's Jackie Chan (from whom she borrows during her big solo fight sequence).

Even though the fight scenes are amazing, "Charlie's Angels" is mainly a parody, both of its TV inspiration and of other shows like "Mission: Impossible." From the opening, you know that this is a movie that takes nothing seriously, especially not itself.

"Charlie's Angels" isn't a great movie, but it is an immensely fun movie, and sometimes you can't ask for more than that.

It's just a shame that Bill Murray (who takes over the role of Bosley from the TV series' David Doyle) chose to phone in his role. He's the only cast member who doesn't seem to be having a good time.

Certainly Barrymore is having fun. She co-produced this baby, and she'll be smiling as she counts her money.

And speaking of Jackie Chan, he has a new movie, too. Well, it's actually an old movie (from 1994), but it does have a new title.

As always, remember that Jackie Chan is a professional. Don't try this at home.
Courtesy Photo Copyright Dimension Films
As always, remember that Jackie Chan is a professional. Don't try this at home.
"The Legend of Drunken Master" is actually just a renamed "Drunken Master II," which is already available on home video. But don't let that deter you from seeing it in a theater. You needn't have seen the first film to follow the second, and Chan's incredible fight sequences deserve to be seen on the big screen.

Chan plays Wong Fei-hong, the master of a style of fighting called drunken boxing, so named because its fluid movements make its practitioners appear intoxicated. Not to mention that drunken boxers get better at the style when they actually are drunk.

Unfortunately, Fei-hong's father (Lung Ti), afraid his son will become an alcoholic, forbids him to use the drunken boxing method. This complicates matters when Fei-hong unwittingly becomes involved in a plot to smuggle ancient Chinese artifacts out of the country.

It's up to Fei-hong and his friends to retrieve the priceless treasures and save the day.

Again, of course, the plot is incidental. We just want to see Jackie fight, and fight he does. The martial arts sequences in "The Legend of the Drunken Master" are among some of Chan's best. The movie's climatic battle is a 20-minute sequence between Chan and Ken Lo, Chan's real-life bodyguard. (As you might guess, anyone tough enough to be Chan's bodyguard is capable of some pretty amazing moves, himself.)

Anita Mui ("The Heroic Trio") co-stars as Fei-hong's scheming (in a good way) mother-in-law and provides much of the film's comic relief.

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