First of all, I haven’t seen the 2019 version of the movie Charlie’s Angels in theaters now, so this isn’t a review. I might have seen the 2000 movie, or some part of it, starring Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore, and Lucy Liu, but I don’t have a clear memory. I definitely saw multiple episodes of the television series in the 1970s and 80s, originally starring Kate Jackson, Farrah Fawcett (then billed as Farrah Fawcett-Majors), and Jaclyn Smith. I don’t remember the show being terrifically good, but it’s been a long time since I’ve seen an episode.
The current incarnation stars “angels” Kristen Stewart, Naomi Scott, and Ella Balinksa along side a plethora of “Bosleys” including Patrick Stewart.
The main reason I’m writing this is that I came across a scathing review called Why ‘feminist’ films flop on what appears to be a pretty conservative news outlet. I mean the author Maren Thom really pulled out all the stops. That made me curious about the movie (I wasn’t before and in fact, I didn’t even know it was in the theaters until I looked it up), so I started doing some reading.
I’ve written before about gender flipping, the practice of taking male driven franchises such as Ocean’s 8 and Ghostbusters and remaking them with an all female cast. Film studios are in the business of making money, but some are also trying to promote diversity, so it would seem that the lure of a popular franchise would be just the deal to get a lot of people into the movie theaters and expose them to said-diversity. It doesn’t always work.
But although Marvel’s “Captain Marvel” comic book character was originally male, Carol Danvers became the Captain back in the 1970s, so having a female star was completely within context.
Which brings us back to Charlie’s Angels, the current version. As I mentioned, the original television show was female driven, with David Doyle as the lovable and somewhat goofy Bosley, and John Forsythe as the voice of the ever elusive “Charlie.”
As someone probably pointed out already, the television series was action-adventure with a side of comedy and plenty of the “jiggle factor” to attract male audiences. I suppose for it’s time it might have been considered “feminist,” but looking back, probably not. Sure, the “angels” were strong, intelligent, capable women, but they also looked good in bikinis.
The current movie was written and directed by Elizabeth Banks and from what I’ve read, it does have a strong, modern feminist theme.
But is it a case of “get woke, go broke?”
It’s gotten mixed reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, which is pretty much the go to site for movie reviews. While “Angels” only has a 54% score on the “Tomatometer,” the aggregated audience score is 79%. Not too darn shabby.
According to the above cited critic:
But I was not excited to see Charlie’s Angels, and that seems to reflect the wider sentiment: the film bombed at the US box office. It cost $48 million to make but only brought in $8.6 million on its opening weekend.
And Wikipedia says:
In the United States and Canada, the film was released alongside Ford v Ferrari and The Good Liar, and was projected to gross $10–12 million from 3,452 theaters in its opening weekend. However, after making $3.1 million on its first day (including $900,000 from Thursday night previews), it went on to debut to just $8.6 million, finishing in third place. Deadline Hollywood cited the film’s mixed critical response and a lack of public interest in the franchise as reasons for the underperformance, while The Hollywood Reporter observed that the film specifically “failed to attract moviegoers over the age of 35,” as well as “younger females—its target audience—in enough numbers.”
Not much of a money maker. However:
Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of “B+” on an A+ to F scale, while those at PostTrak gave it an overall positive score of 69% (including an average 3 out of 5 stars), with 46% saying they would definitely recommend it.
So a lot of the people who actually saw the movie liked it, but relatively speaking, not a lot of people went out to see it.
I was particularly curious about how the movie didn’t attract many in it’s target audience, so I went to The Hollywood Reporter’s “Charlie’s Angels and When to Put an Expiration Date of Old IP”
The article cites other popular franchises whose most recent incarnations, including “Terminator: Dark Fate” and “Doctor Sleep” also took financial nosedives.
The underwhelming performances of the three films has exacerbated Hollywood’s IP conundrum: In an era when Disney franchises and reboots dominate the box office and original movies are often seen as too risky for theatrical release, how far into its vaults should a studio reach to fill its annual slate?
“The time-honored tradition of the reboot has been pressure-tested over the past three weekends, with three films earning a resounding ‘meh’ from audiences who were clearly not seeking out the characters nor the type of onscreen situations that made their predecessors big enough hits to warrant venturing back into the vaults,” says Paul Dergarabedian, a box office analyst at Comscore. “Today’s audiences are very wary of the resurrecting of non-original IP sometimes a decade or more after the original films made their mark.”
Of course, it’s not all doom and gloom. The “Star Wars”, “Jurassic Park/World”, and “Jumanji” franchises are raking in money hand over fist.
So maybe it’s not a bad movie, it’s just an idea that’s been recycled one too many times. But according to Fox News, Banks has another theory:
Elizabeth Banks suggested that the reason her “Charlie’s Angels” reboot failed to make a splash at the box office opening weekend was that men “don’t go see women do action movies.”
She followed that statement with:
“They’ll go and see a comic book movie with Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel because that’s a male genre,” Banks explained. “So even though those are movies about women, they put them in the context of feeding the larger comic book world, so it’s all about, yes, you’re watching a Wonder Woman movie but we’re setting up three other characters or we’re setting up ‘Justice League.’”
I took a screen cap of some review summaries and they all look pretty good:
So, yeah. Mixed reviews and not a lot of profits.
Of course, without seeing it myself, I can’t make a personal judgment. It’s not a movie I would naturally watch, but then anymore, if I see a film in the theater, it’s usually because my grandchildren want to see it. I don’t believe Ms. Banks’ movie is especially interesting to a ten-year-old boy and a four-year-old girl.
However, my best guess in doing a little research, was that “Charlie’s Angels” didn’t fail because it was too feminist or because of misogyny. It just didn’t have that much appeal to general audiences. At the end of the day, your film has to pull in the widest possible audience for as long as it can in order to make money.
Oh, and based on the stills I’ve seen from the movie, there still seems to be some “jiggle factor” lingering.