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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Charlie's Angels is a reboot of the '70s TV series about a trio of female secret agents (Kristen Stewart, Ella Balinska, and Naomi Scott). Elizabeth Banks directs, switching the franchise's focus to female empowerment, with themes of curiosity, courage, and teamwork. There's also more violence than many might expect, some of it pretty intense: The Angels battle villains in scenes that are full of hard-hitting fights, explosions, and assault weapons. They take some punches in the process, and they also kill some of the villains (an impalement is particularly gnarly). As in the original show, the Angels are tough, strong, smart, and savvy; they also rock a killer wardrobe. In other words, they're aspirational, not sex objects. And they're refreshingly diverse. The opening scene does pay homage to the original's playbook, with Stewart's character using her sex appeal to trap a villain -- but it's explained that the Angels succeed because society doesn't expect attractive women to be cunning or capable. Profanity is infrequent but present ("d--k," "s--t," etc.), and there's some social drinking.
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What's the story?
CHARLIE'S ANGELS is an update of the 1970s TV series; in this iteration, multiple teams of highly trained operatives known as "Angels" work for "Charlie" at the Townsend Agency, alongside a handler known as Bosley (portrayed here by director Elizabeth Banks). Their job is to take on the most dangerous missions in the world. When Elena (Naomi Scott) comes to the Angels with news that the technology she's working on could be used as a weapon, Angels Sabina (Kristen Stewart) and Jane (Ella Balinska) decide that the best bet is to take her on as one of their own. Together, the trio must stop the project before lives are endangered.
Is it any good?
The Angels of the Townsend Agency now have swagger rather than jiggle, thanks to Banks, who creates something fantastic and fun out of what was once fluff. Watching three strong, capable women working together to take down villains with their physical and mental prowess is a rare pleasure. It was in 1976, too -- but back then, girls may not have realized that the show was primarily intended to let men watch Sabrina, Jill, and Kelly run around in skimpy clothes in sexy situations, which may have led to some young fans picking up unintentional messages about what it is to be a woman. Banks reverses that completely. Here, the women's wardrobe is sick, the makeup slick, and the hair sensational: The Angels look good, but not in a way that says they're "a good time." It's an update of the '70s feminist mantra "you can have it all"; now, the movie seems to say, you can kick butt and look super cool doing it.
Stewart steals the show, transforming her trademark mumbly delivery into a torrent of unexpectedly hilarious throwaway lines. Her cool cred, already sky high, jumps into the stratosphere. Like a comical Brad Pitt character, Stewart's Sabina may not be clear on all things, but she gets the job done. Banks' tweaking of the original trio of Angels -- a blonde, a brunette, and a darker brunette -- also makes positive inroads on representation. Does it all make sense? Oh no -- and it doesn't need to. It's the right movie giving teens the right role models at the right time. As Charlie would say, "Well done, Angels!"
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the evolution of how the Angels have been portrayed through the years. What do you like or dislike about the way the Angels are presented in this incarnation? Do you think having a female director is important in telling a story about women?
Do you think violence is glamorized in Charlie's Angels? Does the impact of the violence change depending on the movie's tone -- or who's involved?
Elena is called out for her inquisitiveness with the saying "curiosity killed the cat." What does that mean? How did Elena exhibit her curiosity? Why is it an important character strength?
- In theaters: November 15, 2019
- On DVD or streaming: March 10, 2020
- Cast: Kristen Stewart, Naomi Scott, Ella Balinska, Elizabeth Banks
- Director: Elizabeth Banks
- Studio: Columbia Pictures
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Friendship, Great Girl Role Models
- Character strengths: Courage, Curiosity, Teamwork
- Run time: 119 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: action/violence, language and some suggestive material
- Last updated: March 9, 2020
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