So this is what "Charlie's Angels" would be if it didn't have A-list stars, humor or cheap sex appeal.
The rebooted franchise strips away nearly all of what granted guilty pleasure status to the 1976-1981 TV series or the 2000 and 2003 movies. Those fun, inconsequential romps were no masterpieces, but at least knew how to show you a good time.
The new film, spearheaded by director Elizabeth Banks, who also plays a supporting role, does have a little something going for it. Impressive action sequences, a diverse and energetic cast and earnest you-go-girl messaging makes for an earnest attempt to relaunch the series as a Jason Bourne-style geopolitical spy saga.
The story, though, strains under its own weight. There is decent chemistry among the main trio of Kristen Stewart, Naomi Scott and Ella Balinksa, but none carries enough charisma to conjure the necessary spectacle.
Cameron Diaz, Farrah Fawcett and their fellow previous generations of "Charlie's Angles" need not fear that this new batch will steal any of their thunder.
Stewart plays against type as the gung-ho, tough-talking leader of the group. She turns in a workmanlike performance that channels a post-pixie haircut Katy Perry, but there's a nagging feeling that Banks sees more star power in Stewart than the audience does. The result is scenes that linger on her just a bit too long, as though expecting some sort of magic to occur that never fully materializes.
It's Scott -- the precocious scientist and hacker recruited by the Angels to derail an international death-ray-cube scheme -- who shines the brightest. Her character is the easiest one for the audience to latch on to, looking at the Angels' exotic jet-setting, high class party-attending, disguise-wearing lifestyle. The slim plot would have worked fine if there were leavened with cheesy jokes, but there are fewer jokes here than what you'd find in, say, a "Mission Impossible" flick.
Banks, Djimon Hounsou and Patrick Stewart pop up every now and then, as if to sprinkle in enough star power to justify the movie's appearance in theaters rather than go direct-to-video. When they make their all-too-quick exits, they're the lucky ones.
The audience, left to politely watch this C-team forge through the spirited but unnecessary, unwanted affair, doesn't get off so easy. This is a reboot that deserves the boot.
RATING: 2 stars out of 4.