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Josie and the Pussycats

Reviewed By Matt Mulcahey
Posted 04/19/01 11:38:28

"‘Josie’ funny, but disappointing"
2 stars (Pretty Crappy)

Josie and the Pussycats starts with a dead-on parody of the rash of interchangeable boy bands that dominate today’s musical landscape as the infantile members of the fictional pop confection Du Jour fight over whose face is on more special edition Pepsi cans and who’s stealing whose pose.

If Josie and the Pussycats was actually about the band, the movie might have done for boy bands what This Is Spinal Tap did for heavy metal (Du Jour’s hit single is called “Backdoor Lover", every bit as amusing as Spinal Tap’s “Big Bottom” or “Sex Farm.”)

Instead, we get a goofy but enjoyable parody of the commercialization of America’s youth as a devious record company plants subliminal messages in music to make young consumers do their bidding.

Josie and the Pussycats was originally an Archie’s Comic and then an animated TV show in the early ’70s, and this film version from the Can’t Hardly Wait writing/directing team of Harry Elfont and Deborah Kaplan captures the tongue-in-cheek camp of those earlier endeavors.

The story centers around the struggling rock band, The Pussycats, made up of Josie (Rachael Leigh Cook) on vocals and guitar, Melody (Tara Reid) on drums and Valerie (Rosario Dawson) on bass.

The only gig the band can line up is at the local bowling alley, until Du Jour discovers the subliminal messages and must be disposed of. A new band is needed, and Mega Records executive Wyatt Frame (Alan Cumming) stumbles upon The Pussycats.

Mocking the studio created, pre-packaged products that pass for bands these days, Josie and The Pussycats have a billboard in Times Square and a record contract before anyone outside their hometown has even heard their music. Within a week, they’ve got the No. 1 record in the country and are surrounded by thousands of
adoring fans.

The cast members are no strangers to some of the very teen moronicy this movie lampoons. Tara Reid (American Pie, Urban Legend, Cruel Intentions) and Rachael Leigh Cook (She’s All That)have both contributed to the dumbing down that has occurred in the movies over the last half-decade. Ironically, it is Rosario Dawson, the actress whose work has had the most substance (Kids, He Got Game, Light It Up), whose character is the most underwritten.

Reid is completely wasted as the ditsiest of blondes, with only Cook giving a complete performance, capturing the shock and bewilderment that the sudden stardom brings.

Parkey Posey goes way, way over the top (imagine her Dazed and Confused character 10 years later), but her appearance in this movie is disappointing considering she was the most uncompromising actress of the ’90s.

Other than the hilarious intro, the film doesn’t reach its potential until the finale, with a lot of dead time and bad jokes in between. But the last third is very funny, giving a glimpse of how much fun the movie could’ve been.

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