Kristen Stewart has fun, but the rest of this refreshed take on the popular franchise can't figure out what it's trying to be

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The formula hasn't changed, only the outfits. So why does the new "Charlie's Angels" feel like a chore? 

Writer-director Elizabeth Banks forgets the key element in her update of the campy series about a trio of female spies: fun. 

She seems unsure of whether she's going for comedy or action, and winds up with a middling turkey that doesn't hit on either front. Someone call Bosley: these Angels aren't up for the job.

It's too bad, too, because Kristen Stewart, who always seems to be brooding on screen, is having a ball as Sabina Wilson, a funky spy with cool punk rock hair and an attitude to match. Her Sabina is a bit aloof but she always gets the job done, even if Stewart's on-screen physicality belies Sabina's supposed fighting acumen. (Banks could have done a better job cutting around her.) 

Newcomer Ella Balinska is fellow Angel Jane Kano, and she teams with Sabina to track down Elena Houghlin (Naomi Scott, Jasmine in this year's "Aladdin"). She has developed a piece of software that will reshape the future of electricity, or something, but can also be used, in her words, "as a weapon to assassinate people." Hey, nobody ever accused "Charlie's Angels" of airtight plotting. 

Not that anybody's expecting that. Director McG, in his delirious 2000 big-screen romp, created ridiculously over-the-top action scenes but centered the film on the companionship between his three superstar leads, Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore and Lucy Liu. 

This cast never gels, Banks strikes out tonally and her action scenes lack a sense of visual cohesion. You're left with a "Charlie's Angels" that doesn't know what to make of itself and, for the first time, feels out-of-style. 

'Charlie's Angels'

GRADE: C-

Rated PG-13: for action/violence, language and some suggestive material

Running time: 118 minutes

agraham@detroitnews.com

@grahamorama

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