Charlie’s Angels (12A)**

Dir: Elizabeth Banks

With: Kristen Stewart, Ella Balinska, Naomi Scott

Runtime: 118 mins

File this one under remakes that no one was exactly clamouring for, as the ‘70s TV hit and the 2000 movie version get another updating. With Elizabeth Banks on board as writer, director and supporting turn as spymaster Bosley, hopes were high, but the resulting action comedy is a baffling disappointment.

Fights fall into the up close and frantic and generally incomprehensible category, chases rely too heavily on computer effects and there’s a distinct lack of due diligence given to the plot and script. It’s left to the spy capering to add whatever sort of panache can be salvaged, and while a couple of them are passably entertaining, we’ve seen it all before – costumes and decoys in high security facilities or lavish parties.

Worse still, none of the set pieces seem to mean or achieve anything, just adding to the overall air of messiness. The central conceit is a tired one, as the Angels (Stewart and Balinska with Scott’s engineer roped in to help) scoot around Europe trying to find an electronic gizmo that can be used to kill people remotely.

The tone is generally breezy, but you can feel the effort put in to make it that way, the level of straining required to deliver jokes and one-liners that in fact for the most part are painfully unfunny. It’s a shame more than a catastrophe, the disappointment being that everyone involved deserves better.

We know Banks is much funnier than this, and in her trio of Angels, she’s certainly cast well. Stewart is sparky, her star wattage on high power, and she does end up with some of the better lines, even if we can hear Banks’ voice behind many of them. Balinska puts in an impressive physical performance, and Scott shows with this and Aladdin that she could go on to great things.

There’s some nice playing with the mythology – multiple Bosleys (including Patrick Stewart) and multiple Angels – and there’s much to admire in the overarching message of female empowerment. But that needs to be backed up where it counts in the filmmaking departments, and Banks has sadly come up way short.