Joel Siegel Movie Reviews

Now in theaters: Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle, Capturing the Friedmans and Spellbound.

Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle

It is silly. The plot is indecipherable. The stunts — the fight scenes, the car chases — there's one stunt they catch a falling helicopter — try so hard to top themselves they just become ridiculous. The acting is never more than this far from over the top. In short, it's the perfect summer movie.

The Angels are back, and this time they've got a new sidekick: Bernie Mac plays Bosley, Bill Murray's brother. And before this movie's over, even that makes perfect sense. Which the plot never does. But who cares?

The movie starts in Outer Mongolia with Cameron Diaz riding a mechanical yak — a reference to Urban Cowboy, just one of a dozen hysterical movie references made as Diaz, Drew Barrymore and Lucy Liu return for some celestial sisterhood and bad-guy butt-kicking.

Full Throttle was directed by McG, who also directed the first film. He uses music-video techniques to trim fight scenes to their essence. Losing the connective tissue, that boring what-happens-in between, allows McG to take a two-hour movie and cram it full of two or three weeks' worth of action.

Almost all of it defies the laws of gravity, but are you paying nine bucks to watch Isaac Newton for Dummies or Charlie's Angels for fun?

Demi Moore appears as a fallen angel. Matt LeBlanc is back taking falls. Drew Barrymore is back falling for the bad guy.

The angels themselves show up in some heavenly disguises. Sometimes they're sisters. Cameron Diaz even dresses up as their brother. She is just terrific, a bigger-than-life movie star in full There's Something About Mary innocence and double entendre.

But all three angels are in great star turns. Halos all around.

Full Throttle is louder than the first movie, and also sillier. I honestly don't know how they can make a sequel to this one. I can't see how they can do it any better; it's that much fun, and fun is all it tries to be. It really is a perfect summer movie.

Grade: B+

Capturing the Friedmans

For serious movie-going, this is a good summer for documentaries. Here are two of the best, both playing around the country.

Capturing the Friedmans started as a documentary about New York City's most successful birthday clown. Then the filmmaker discovered something funny was going on. His subject's father and youngest brother had both been imprisoned for sexually abusing minors.

And just when you've decided if they're guilty or innocent this powerful documentary hits you with a jarring, shocking, stomach-churning moment. Capturing the Friedmans is a film you won't be able to stop talking about. Grade: A


As far as documentaries go, Spellbound is an H-I-T.

It follows eight kids on their quest to win the 1999 National Spelling Bee. Ashley, from the projects in Washington, D.C., spells "lycanthrope," a fancy word for werewolf, but Neil from California has trouble with "Darjeeling." Angela's a typical Texas teenager. Her dad, a Mexican immigrant, doesn't speak a word of English. These kids' experiences will have you, well, spellbound.

This is a great film to take older kids to. It's not about spelling it's about working hard, setting a goal, and getting there. I loved the diversity. That was my favorite part. It shows how many different ways we spell America. Grade: A-