No better, no worse: Angels sequel is a ringer

A TV series that lasted five seasons, back when seasons were longer than they are now, should provide material for more than one movie. Hence, Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle, which crams about a season's worth of plot, action, and costume changes into an hour and three quarters on the theory that the faster it moves, the less sense it has to make.

Director McG is back with the same three stars. Having worked together before allowed them to concentrate on subtlety and nuance this time. They don't do it, but it was an option.

The main plot is about two titanium rings which, when combined, give the bearer (ring bearer, get it?) access to a complete file of everyone in the federal witness protection program. The rings are stolen and offered for sale to gangs and families who may want revenge for members who've been put away.

One of the convicts, who happens to get released when the rings are stolen, is Seamus O'Grady (Justin Theroux). It turns out he dated Dylan (Drew Barrymore) back when her name was– Well, I'll let you find out for yourself, but it cues quite a number of posterior puns. Dylan, we're told, has a habit of falling for the bad guys.

Her partners are still involved with the guys they fell for in the last movie. Natalie (Cameron Diaz) is finally moving in with Pete (Luke Wilson), and they may even get serious. (Their final gag will probably provoke a lawsuit from Spike Lee.) Alex (Lucy Liu) is having a "time out" from Jason (Matt LeBlanc), an actor currently starring in the sequel Maximum Extreme II (which triggers some sequel jokes but nothing really cutting). He still hangs around her house and gets to know Alex' father (John Cleese), who gets more and more befuddled as he learns new things about his daughter.

The Angels still work for Charlie (voice of John Forsythe) through Bosley. Not the old Bosley (Bill Murray, seen only in a photograph), but his brother (Bernie Mac). Bosley helps out by giving a threatened witness, Max (Shia LaBeouf), a new hiding place: his home in South Central.

There are so many characters you can't tell them without a program, and the general rule is that most of them move around between the Good Guy and Bad Guy list. They include FBI Director Robert Forster, U.S. Marshal Robert Patrick, Thin Man Crispin Glover, and former Angel Madison Lee (Demi Moore). Another former Angel makes a cameo appearance, but that's a surprise. Pink, who sings her hit single behind the closing credits, also has a small role as the "Coal Bowl Starter." She's a serious threat to Madonna in the acting department.

The Angels giggle and jiggle their way through an amazing number of scenes involving fighting, dancing, extreme sports, or any combination. As in the first film, it's hard to avoid the sneaking suspicion they had more fun making the movie than you're having watching it. Of course there has to be more of everything (except coherence) this time around, so the action is too frantic to follow as McG again brings his music video background into play.

Speaking of music, the motley song list gives you an idea of what a mess the movie is. Here's a small sample: "Last Dance," "Hooray for Hollywood," "Livin' on a Prayer," "Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting," "The Lonely Goatherd," "Planet Clare," "Eine Kleine Nacht Musik" and themes from "The Pink Panther," "Vertigo," "Born Free" and "Flashdance."

Moore looks the best, but Diaz gets the greatest workout, doing everything from surfing to welding to riding a mechanical yak or something in Northern Mongolia; and she gets to look butch when she poses as a CSI team leader. All three Angels race dirt bikes and do an SM dance number with a chorus.

The skin factor is important here, and because Angels need eye candy too, this includes considerable beefcake, most notably Rodrigo Santoro.

My expectations were too high for the first Charlie's Angels movie. This time I knew what to expect, so I was less disappointed. Full Throttle is probably no better than its predecessor (and no worse either), but I didn't mind it as much.