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Hollywood's Unsolved Mysteries

. "Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle"

This picture does what no other movie has done: it transforms a TV show into a cartoon. Not that this was such a challenge. The TV show that spawned the film franchise never offered depth of character as a selling point or as a component. It gave us female exploits while exploiting female beauty, a mission not given to much more than colorful action -- the stuff of the comic strip.

The distinguishing of one beautiful person from another is purely in the visual realm as Charlie tasks his team to perform their feats of flashy acrobatics in vanquishing their foes. In this installment, after a kick-ass rescue of Ray Carter (Robert Patrick), purportedly an undercover agent secreted in a cellar prison by a vicious bunch of fun-loving barbarians in a third world country, they return him to freedom with his secret decoder ring.

Meanwhile, the possessor of a matching ring is killed for it because the pair of them, used in tandem, opens a database containing the locations for all the participants in the federal Witness Protection Program. The pair of rings, then, is a magnet for the nefarious, and it has now fallen into the possession of villainous psychopaths. Safely returned to their dormitory style lair the Angels, Natalie (Cameron Diaz), Dylan (Drew Barrymore), and Alex (Lucy Liu), along with the new Bosley (Bernie Mac) receive Charlie's next assignment (again voiced by John Forsythe) to uncover the perpetrators.

Well, the person who currently has the rings turns out to be fallen Angel Madison Lee (Demi Moore) whose treacherous partner is Ray Carter himself. It seems Lee's intent is to sell the rings to the highest bidder, bringing out the Asian Triad, the Italian Mob, a few bloods and Crips. And then, in his own special category, is the criminally deranged escaped convict who is out for revenge against angel Dylan for putting him behind bars. This depraved creature is Seamus O'Grady (Justin Theroux) and he leads an Irish contingent. They're all in the auction action.

The Angels demonstrate their attributes in a fashion show cum make-believe girl power masquerading as a plot. Yes, it's fun to watch as the team appears in an endless array of outfits and acrobatics, but it's more satisfying to a voyeuristic eye than it is to the preposterous notion that there might be an idea beyond the obvious. As movie entertainment, it's playful, energetic and mindless and if that's your cup of confection, it's there for your gratification.

There's a gravity defying motocross competition that's more like air-hanging double cross, and every excuse to put the babes in sexy, suggestive motion, displaying as much of their parts as limited decorum will allow. This reaches a peak in a dance number that's worth repeat attendance by a few million guys, with fashion ideas pulling in the opposing gender.

Diaz is delectably trim as she lets the dialogue all hang out, little caring about the zaniness of it. Who cares? She and Lucy Liu are just fun to watch. Demi Moore has no trouble relating to her real life in her buff revenge mode that can get savage at times. As for the comic relief, I'll take Bill Murray's subtle yocks over Bernie Mac's bluster anyday.

Filming locations will be an added element of charm for Angelenos whose city is getting revitalized as a site for making movies. The Griffith Observatory is closed to the public for a multi-year renovation, but that doesn't keep the Angels crew from using it as an outdoor stage.

Action and beauty is what it's about, finally, and it's as single dimensional as ink on paper. It's a sugar rush and an adrenaline boost; whipped cream without the cake; capuccino froth without the coffee. "Full Throttle" is as good a title as any for the racy adventure -- fun while the tank has gas but brief and oh so forgettable, a sunny, breezy trip for mindless entertainment. A comic strip.

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                                      ~~  Jules Brenner  

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Lucy Liu, Cameron Diaz and Drew Barrymore
in peak form (at the Los Angeles Observatory)
as they face their adversary

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