Monday, November 6, 2000

Becoming Bosley- Haunted by That Disemboweled Voice

Last week I found myself standing in the middle of my front yard under the billowing oak tree, wads of pink Kleenex stuffed in my ears, blowing(!) multiple shaped and colored leaves into a manageable pile. As the cars slowly drove by on Hamline Avenue, and as the leggy runner with the big dog passed by across the street, it only seemed as if everyone was looking at me. The whole scene seemed a tad absurd, a bad David Lynch movie. I didn't create this mess I merely bought the responsibility. It wasn't exactly the glamorous and prestigious image I envisioned when I was in the process of becoming a homeowner. Raking to me is an exercise in futility. No matter how efficient your equipment, no matter how diligent your work, the yard will never be entirely clean. And depending on which way the wind blows, a day later the neighbor's leaves might be strewn across your yard rendering all your relentless tiresome work ultimately fruitless.

A couple of days later the ghosts, goblins, fairies, and bumble bees appeared. Frightened and agitated Mr. Max and I tried our best to ward off the ever exhaustive demons. And then the next day Halloween came. It only took an hour of feeble knocks on my door (mixed in with giggles and timid little voices outside my head) for me to finally figure out that my doorbell wasn't working. And the kids didn't seem all that happy with the jumbo sized jolly ranchers I was handing out- they truly did suck.

This isn't exactly the portrait of the docile domesticity I imagined as a kid, and I had to wonder as the last knock knocked, when or where was the point that my life took a decidedly downward turn toward predictability and a loss of dreams (with a corresponding lack of sleep)? There was never a doubt in my mind that when I grew up I'd be much more like Starsky and Hutch than John Bosley. I was a doer, the leader of my pack, not somebody else's lackey. I was to become the suave and sophisticated, sweeping my soul mate off her feet with my dashing debonair heroism, not the perpetually overlooked bridesmaid.

As a twelve-year-old boy I was as big a fan of the TV show Charlie's Angels as anyone else in my class. I firmly believed I could become the fourth Angel. My favorite of the trio was without a doubt Kris Monroe (Cheryl Ladd) the wacky, goofy one from South Dakota. Looking back I'm not so sure there was all that much a clear distinction between any of the Angels (although Kate, Farrah and Jaclyn stick in my mind much more nostalgically than Tonya and Shelly). Ms. Ladd however was to my wide open eyes much more bee-yew-tih-phul than the others (a fore runner of sorts to my favorite wedding planner). Plus she was talented and versatile - with two LPs that I quickly added to my record collection sacrificing weeks of my hard earned allowance money.

I have to admit when I heard that "they" were making a big screen version of the TV show I was anxious to see the end result. This despite the fact that I loathe the trend toward making movies out of the mediocre TV shows from our youth. Somehow the TV we watched while growing up now not only augments our childhood memories, it has in some cases insidiously replaced them. Was there really a need, or was it a good idea to make movies based on the Mod Squad or Wild Wild West two shows that merely enjoyed marginal success during their TV runs? And did the producers of the Flintstones Viva Rock Vegas really think they were adding something positive and necessary to our culture?

The case can be made however that Charlie's Angels was a distinct and somewhat groundbreaking show. True the so called social significance isn't as great as the pop culture revisionists now have us believe, but still it was more important by any measure than say, Hello Larry or Mr. T and Tina, and a natural and worthwhile progression from the Flying Nun. The show was among the first to feature strong female leads, beautiful and brave who proved even those without a gun could beat the bad guys. The Angels were as gallant as they were glamorous. Little boys might have watched to see three fabulous babes in provocative situations and clothes but little girls for the first time had action heroes to emulate, as innocuous and comic book as the counterpoint male figures that dominated the TV landscape for many years. Charlie's Angels was the pioneer in equal opportunity television. Thus the show can almost be forgiven that it had to have a necessary omnipotent male figure as the all-powerful boss; at least there was a subtle message that men were better heard than seen.

Snap crackle pop- you just gotta love a movie where two of the main characters are named Alex and Dylan. With splashy wall to wall action packed eye candy, the film is a highly entertaining effort with more than a few laugh out loud moments. The plot as it is takes back seat to the impressive Matrix-like special effects and the oh so easy on the eyes attractiveness of Cameron Diaz, Lucy Liu, and Drew Barrymore. These Angels are a tad more sophisticated, high tech, and cocky than their TV counterparts.

It takes a while to warm up to the frenetic breathtaking pace- and tongue in cheek (sexual innuendo intended) style. The movie is a spoof, but it's never sure or quite clear what it is making fun of. Equal parts Matrix and James Bond with a little Mission Impossible thrown in, Charlie's Angels walks the line of titillation and empowerment. Yes the Angels are fiercely capable and independent but the movie doesn't hide the lingering camera shots of Diaz's bouncing behind, Barrymore's ample cleavage, and Liu's enticing arms. But by the end it doesn't really matter that the story is trivial and that the movie is more than aware that it is about style over substance. It is entertaining just by its sheer kinetic energy. And it doesn't hurt that Diaz's smile and shimmering MIAC soccer player of the year's eyes are stunningly irresistible- delightfully lighting the screen whenever she is present.

Perhaps the most disappointing part of the movie is Liu's undeveloped character. By far the most charismatic of the three actresses, her character is given little definition other than being the technical expert. She is sadly underused here, even though it is apparent that of the three, she is probably the one that is the most interesting off screen. Bill Murray's Bosley too seems almost an afterthought. The scenes of him trying to break out of a prison cell and hamming it up with a false mustache while playing the tuba in an Alps outfit seem almost written in from another movie. Yet his typical mocking personae make those scenes somehow enjoyable. A hidden treat is Crispin Glover's hair sniffing silent villain who is more than a little handy with a sword. Glover is a long lost quirky actor that is constantly hilarious to watch with his goofy grimaced looking facial expressions.

As people continue to look back a decade or two to find some sort of answer, some sort of antidote to our current cultural state, it is somehow refreshing how a movie like Charlie's Angels is able to deliver what it has intrinsically promised. It's all pretty campy and kitschy yet it works because it plays proper homage to the TV series while gently mocking it at the same time. It is a film that looks as if it was a lot of fun to make and thus in the end that spirit makes it a lot of fun to watch.

No comments: