“2 Fast, 2 Furious.”
A sequel to one of the most successful action heroine films of all time was perhaps inevitable, but this proves the difficulty of catching lightning in a bottle. What seemed light and breezy, an effortless concoction of bubbly entertainment, first time around, now appears forced and contrived. Put simply, it tries too hard, and as a result is significantly less successful than the original.
This time, the heroines are tracking down the villain responsible for stealing two rings that give access to the database of the Federal Witness Protection Program [note to government: I recommend not storing sensitive information on something quite so easily stolen] It hits close to home, since before becoming an Angel, Dylan (Barrymore) was given a new identity through the program. The Irish gangster she jailed (Theroux) is now out, and after her blood, as well as the rings.
Then there’s Demi Moore as a former Angel, now gone bad – which might be a shock if it hadn’t been promoted in every puff piece about the movie. Hey, at least she gets to use a gun, again otherwise mysteriously absent from the Angels’ world. Her role is smaller than you might expect, but unfortunately, is not the only bit of stunt casting. With a deep breath, we plunge in…
John Cleese, Bruce Willis, the Olsen twins, Pink, Luke Wilson, Matt LeBlanc, Robert Patrick, Eric Bogosian, Jaclyn Smith, Carrie Fisher… You get the concept? It’s my experience that films so burdened with celebrity cameos are usually trying to divert you from weaknesses elsewhere. The only one to make any impact is Cleese, as Alex’s father, who operates under the impression his daughter is a prostitute; his facial expressions as she describes taking on twelve sailors at once (and subsequent need for a shower) are the comic highlight of the film.
Speaking of comedy, Bernie Mac is largely unintelligible as the new Bosley, making you yearn for the subtlety (or, at least, audibility) of Bill Murray, and the film grinds completely to a halt so that the Angels can do a little dance number to M.C. Hammer. It’s not funny, and it’s not clever. After the Showgirls sequence – another showstopper in the worse sense of the word – you’ll be fairly sure all three are equally viable candidates as the ho. [See our review of the original if you need an explanation] Last time, the heroic trio had clearly differentiated personalities, but now, they seem like Barbie dolls with interchangeable heads, wardrobes and boyfriends.
I confess I did kinda enjoy watching the movie at the time, but as I’ve been writing this review, its grade has been steadily tumbling, since I can hardly remember anything positive to justify it. Oh, yes: Crispin Glover is back – inexplicably, since he died first time round, but he comes close to stealing the entire movie. We even get to see his background, which is as weird as you’d expect, and probably more entertaining than most of the film’s genuine plot-points. The start, with a Mongolian rescue mission, is also nicely done, but is about the only time where the costumes are more than pointless excess.
The action was one of the highlights of the first, thanks to a great deal of influence and help from Hong Kong. Here, it has some wonderful moments, but never works as a coherent whole – rarely do two seconds pass without some gimmicky piece of editing. The “extreme sports” focus is also weak: surfing, motocross, street luge, and boarding didn’t work in XXX, and they don’t work here, since you know full well the actresses were safely tucked away in their trailers, far from any risk or danger.
Rumour has it, Diaz demanded they shell out $200,000 to retouch her eyes digitally, making them bluer. They really would have been better spending the money on a less self-indulgent script. Despite much improved calendar position (June vs. November), this sequel made less money in its opening weekend than the original, and you can see why. There’s little point bothering with the new movie; you can just watch the original, turn the surround-sound up to 11, bury your head in the speakers and experience the same over-frenetic migraine that Full Throttle will cause.
Stars: Drew Barrymore, Lucy Liu, Cameron Diaz, Justin Theroux