Strip Tease
Girls just wanna have fun
By Daniel Kraus

“If this doesn’t wash the skank off us, nothing will.”

Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle is a big ball of bouncing, jiggling nonsense. It has all the acrobatics, naughty jokes, and skin of the first film, but incorporates it together in a more seamless package; for example, the action no longer feels clumsily grafted in from The Matrix. Consequently, Full Throttle is better than its predecessor. Sadly, that really isn't saying much.

Secret-agent success has not changed Natalie (Cameron Diaz), Dylan (Drew Barrymore), or Alex (Lucy Liu)-they are still lethal (and horny) ass-kickers who somehow manage to be as intelligent as rocket scientists and as ditzy as low-I.Q. cheerleaders. Along with the Reese Witherspoon character in Legally Blonde, they seem to represent the new female ideal: intelligent and sexy, but completely unaware that they're candy-coated bites of deliciousness.

Their supervisor Bosley (Bernie Mac, filling in as Bill Murray's "brother") has a new case for the Angels-recover two stolen titanium rings that contain the identities of all those protected by the Witness Protection Program. Bypassing such obvious questions as "Why would the U.S. government put such important information on two pieces of jewelry?" the Angels begin a haphazard but energetic campaign to find the real criminal while fending off the attention of ex-Angel Madison Lee (40-year-old post-surgery Demi Moore, who doesn't even look old enough to drive).

Both male and female audience members appear to respond to the implicit "tease" of Charlie's Angels. The Angels dress up in an endless procession of cute outfits-each one skimpier than the last-while making naïve double entendres that crank up the sexual tension to an almost unbearable level. The film looks and feels like a really energetic soft porn movie-minus the payoff of nudity and sex.

Full Throttle (the title alone seems to promise a release of sorts) takes us farther than ever before-the girls even appear nude, although strategically covered-but the film still manages to conclude with its chastity intact. There's even a subplot involving Natalie's impending engagement to boyfriend Pete (Luke Wilson) that, at the last second, neutralizes itself by replacing sex with dogs. (Sorry, no spoilers-you'll have to see for yourself.)

This film is obsessed with sex, yet doesn't even include any, maybe not so much as a kiss. But this is the appeal of Charlie's Angels-it's an NC-17 whorehouse mistress concealed inside a PG-rated halter top.

The Angels may be in their 30s, but they come off like high school jailbait. They make girlish comments to each other like, "God, I miss stake-outs!" and worry about the day when one of them will "graduate" and leave their circle of friends. The message is sexually infuriating, but crystal clear: it's permissible to look at the Angels, but no touching, OK?

Unfortunately, the Angels continue to be presented as the ultimate female role models. Director McG apparently believes that kicking someone in the face while wearing a bikini is tantamount to "female empowerment." So is racing dirt bikes. So is pretending to be a stripper. So is lusting after beefcake hunks. So is picking out really cool clothes. Frankly, it's exhausting-is there anything left that ISN'T empowering? Picking your nose? Robbing a homeless shelter?

Full Throttle is bursting with celebrity cameos-including Bruce Willis, the Olsen twins, John Cleese, and Carrie Fisher-which effectively distracts us from the fact that this isn't a real movie with real characters and a real story. Instead, each scene is a quickly-edited trailer for things that Americans like: celebrities, fast cars, sex, money, and always getting the bad guy.

However, if the geeky charm of Diaz, Barrymore, and Liu is enough to placate you for 90 minutes-and the actresses are indeed charming-you'll doubtless be entertained. Still, Charlie's Angels Parts 3, 4, and 5 loom in the distance and may be the future of "summer movies" in general. Because come on-how much slicker, faster, and louder does a film really need to get?