Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle 

All of the ingredients that made Charlie’s Angels an instant box-office hit are back — with the exception of Bill Murray as Bosley — from Cameron Diaz’s goofy butt wiggle to Lucy Liu’s cold stare and colder smile. The asses are in tiptop shape; the gun-free play is fast and furious, and Demi Moore is out of retirement (and the plastic surgeon’s office). Charlie’s Angels 2 should be just as good — or just as bad — as its predecessor, and on that note it doesn’t disappoint. It doesn’t let down on many others, either, as long as expectations remain appropriately low.

Dylan (Drew Barrymore), Alex (Liu) and Natalie (Diaz) spend their second outing together hunting down a pair of secret decoder rings that contain the entire U.S. witness protection program list. Somebody very bad — could it be the black-clad, android-like Ms. Moore? — has taken the invaluable jewelry and is planning to sell it to various mob families, including a crazy Irishman (yes, yes, in a movie crazy Irishman is a redundant phrase — let’s move on, shall we?) named Seamus (Justin Theroux) who just happens to be Dylan’s ex-boyfriend. The trio use their ample cleavage to stop even the worst of foes, and after much activity in skintight outfits eventually return the rings to the government and discover what being a “true” angel of Charlie’s really means.

The replacement of Murray’s Bosley character with Bernie Mac had the potential to add some much-needed distinction to an otherwise comedically predictable franchise. In the two years since CA1, Mac has shot to stardom with the raucous, eponymous Fox sitcom built around his stand-up work, but he’s rudely given the Sambo treatment in CA2. Though the script gives his “this is outrageous, people!” brow furrow a healthy workout, it doesn’t offer him much else to do beyond the obvious shot of ghetto flava that’s clearly wrought not of Mac’s personal mettle but of a focus group that could have been commenting on any number of black comedians. Mac is a funny guy, but not when he’s doing somebody else’s material; then he just looks sad and embarrassed (unless, of course, he’s looking at angel T&A, in which case he looks ... hungry).

Opportunity wasted, to be sure. It won’t affect the CA money machine, but it speaks volumes about its already tenuous credibility.

Erin Podolsky writes about film for Metro Times. E-mail [email protected].

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