Josie and the Pussycats

josie_and_the_pussycats_poster“If I could go back in time, I’d meet Snoopy.”

The Scoop: 2001 PG-13, directed by Harry Elfont and Deborah Kaplan, and starring Rachael Leigh Cook, Tara Reid, Rosario Dawson, and Alan Cumming

Tagline: Here kitty, kitty, kitty…

Summary Capsule: Josie and the girls kick evil ass and play kick ass music. God bless America!

Kyle’s Rating: A fantastic movie, incorporating my favorite word in the title. Uh, I mean “Josie” of course!

Kyle’s Review: Oh, what mad times I went through in the times up to this film! In addition to my usual college shenanigans and female monkeyshines, I had to consider whether or not to see this film. That was like adding a piece of straw to the giant backpack loaded with heavy gold-coated straw already on my back. What? I don’t know either. Long story short, I decided that since I like Rachael Leigh Cook, I tolerate Tara Reid, and Rosario Dawson is pretty hot, I would see this movie. Plus I managed to snag the soundtrack (since I dig Kay Hanley from Letters to Cleo, who performed the lead vocals as the voice of Josie) and it’s fantastic! If I could be seen going to Bring It On, then I possess the courage to see this in public. So I did! And it’s fantastic!

It really is. I mean, it’s pretty stupid, but it’s loads of fun. Sure, it’s not best picture contender, but it clearly deserves an award or two of some kind. I have to admit that I grew up reading Archie comics my grandparents sent me and I really dug the Josie and the Pussycats stories, so they couldn’t just foist some crap production on me and expect me to be satisfied. They had to earn my entertainment! And although the pictures I saw of the cast ahead of time didn’t seem to match my conceptions of how the band would look in the real world, as soon as we get our first glimpse of Josie, Valerie and Melody I was pleased as punch. From the roar of the MGM tiger on, I had a nice big smile on my face and though a whole bunch of “professional critics” believe this movie is a steaming pile of ad-ridden dung, if you’ve come to this page and clicked on this review and read this far, I think you’ll dig Josie.

There actually is a plot to this, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. It turns out there is a big conspiracy to use subliminal or subaural (thanks, Roger Ebert!) messages to sell everything and anything through pop music, and the big boy band DuJour is the latest unwitting tool of the conspiracy. The movie starts with DuJour questioning their manager Wyatt (the evil yet charming Alan Cumming, who is in every movie any more not that this is a bad thing) about these hidden messages, leading Wyatt to literally drop them from the label. But now he needs a new band to manipulate the masses with! As luck would have it, driving through Riverdale he nearly runs into Josie and the Pussycats and sound unheard signs them up for the big time. Then the fun begins! Woo hoo!

Ah, who cares what’s going on here. The band gets popular, strong-willed Valerie worries if Josie is becoming a diva, and the endearingly scatter-brained Melody is happy and she knows it so she claps her hands. Will Josie get brainwashed into becoming an evil diva? Will Wyatt and his malevolently egomaniacal boss Fiona (the devilishly disinterested-in-anything-but-herself Parker Posey) convert the world for their own fiendish purposes? Will Carson Daly kill the Pussycats? Can they cram any more product placement into this movie? All that matters is Josie, Valerie and Melody are hot, they change constantly into tight-fitting fashions, and the music is perfectly respectable pop fun. Don’t think this sounds fun? Whatever, dude!

Like I said, this is just a shiny happy fun movie. You can tell everybody in it was having lots of fun while they made it, so that makes it twice as fun to watch as some boring historical drama that’ll suck the life and happiness right out of you. Cook is an alluring and cute Josie, Dawson is the reliable backbone of the band, and Reid is extraordinarily believable as a ditzy blond. Everyone else is great, too! This is just a very fun movie, and it shocks me beyond belief that so many critics are savaging it. A lot of it is from the rampant product placement throughout the film, but dude, that’s all part of the punch line! Ultimately, know this: if you’re a guy, and you’ve always had fantasies about punk pop rock chicks like I have, then this is a winner for you! If you’re a girl and you’re a punk pop rock chick and/or you’re cool, go have some fun! Fresh fun for everyone! Yee haw!

Justin’s Rating: I am sooo jerky. Beef jerky.

Justin’s Review: True story coming your way. Last year a fellow youth pastor approached me with a rare, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. ‘N Sync was coming to Denver, and they were hiring security guards for the concert. At first, we both jumped at the notion, because what is more dorky and endearing to the kids we work with than to guard the very lives of Tommy, Justin, Jeremy, Percy, and Mork? Or whoever their names might be? But after some discussion we decided not to, because the temptation to let a homicidally fanatic girl past our bulging muscles to latch herself permanently onto one of the stars might just be a mite overwhelming to resist. Plus, they demanded that we buy our own black pants to wear.

We exist in a post-apocalypic music wasteland, where meaningful lyrics and radical styles have been radiated into oblivion. It’s the era of girly-girl and girly-boy armies, and only WE can stop them. But face it, we probably won’t. For one thing, we’d get trampled by the slobbering masses of fans that sacrifice live humans to these bands. And for another thing, no matter how much we rage on the outside, somewhere in our brain is a little voice singing happily the latest pop tune that’s infected our soul. Enter into the fray Josie and The Pussycats, a comic-to-TV transition that manages to both satirize and denounce the pop craze, and promote it at the same time.

Josie (Rachel Leigh Cook, she of the large eyes who Is All That) and her pals form the struggling band The Pussycats. They’ve got the look, they’ve got the sound, but they ain’t got the luck. In appropriately comic book-fashion (cough), a highly suspect record label manager picks them up and whisks them to Fame and Fortune. It happens all too fast, and the band becomes suspicious as to the record label’s motivations. They’re quite innocent, in fact, all they want to do is control the very thoughts and buying power of teens everywhere.

As a satire, all the product placement and subliminal advertising isn’t that shocking or revolutionary. Of course it kinda fails because marketing doesn’t need to be — and hasn’t had to resort to — subliminal messages to make kids buy stuff and like bands. They do it because they follow the crowd, because they seek identity, and because those DARN POP SONGS WON’T GET OUT OF YOUR HEAD, BYE BYE BYE! I love how they rip into overnight pop sensations for their quick rise to the top, but it’s not really the main theme of this film. So really, don’t look for much of a deeper meaning to this flick, and you’ll be all set to enjoy…

Josie and the Pussycats: unplugged, cheesy, and adorably goofy. Really, this movie is everything Spice World tried to be, only I ended up liking it a heckuva lot more because the characters aren’t annoying, and the laughs aren’t forced. By throwing conventional rules out the window and adapting a wink-wink comic attitude toward everything, they let us sit back and enjoy the traditional rags-to-riches band story served with an entree of pinache. The movie’s not afraid to laugh at itself, and actually encourages it in a number of scenes.

Rachael Leigh Cook might get the headlines (she’s a spicy little redhead num-ber, no doubt), but Tara Reid’s Mel clinched my affection for this movie. Mel might be the epitome of vacant ditzy blondes, but she has such a great time with it that she makes Friend’s Pheobe seem stuck up. I liked how her brain wasn’t quite on the same track as others (when Josie asked the group if they thought the record label manager was strange, Mel dissects his personality by noting his napkin-folding, which signified a lack of friends). And it was really hard not to laugh when Mel exits a shower to see a threatening message written on the mirror — which she screams at, then draws a smiley face and a heart to make it all happy. I guess she’s the role model of what gear your brain should be in during this movie.

Throw in a lot of sly in-the-background jokes, some unexpected SFX, and a terrific group of cameos… and I was bouncing my head and laughing through the entire film. Plus, the music is actually not half bad, considering one of their pop numbers has a chorus consisting of, I quote, “OOeeeOOOOeeeOOOOeee”. I can see how teens might reject this film — after all, it pokes fun at pop fans as much as the bands themselves. Still, I urge you to give this a good rent, particularly in the company of friends who buy from Target. It’s McFun for the McSoul, and one of my favorite 2001 underdogs.

PoolMan’s Rating: Frisky female feline fun!

PoolMan’s Review: One of the many paranoid fears I carry with me through this little tunnel of love we call Life is the fear of renting movies for others. Call me crazy, but I get really nervous when I’m left alone to pick a movie that will be the entertainment for any group of people. I mean, I know the basic rules. If I’m picking for a group of women (at least, the women *I* know), romantic comedies usually score bigger than zombie flicks. If I’m picking for guys, some kind of action comedy will go over better than the latest Richard Gere yawner. And if there’s a mixed crowd, I rent Clerks. Easy enough. But no matter what the situation is, I almost always go the comedy route, and end up nervously laughing at everything, even if the movie sucks, just so that I can give the illusion that at least *one* of us is enjoying it.

Josie and the Pussycats may very well save countless friendships.

I’d heard so much good press about Josie that I tossed aside my usual skepticism (I’m getting cynical in my old age regarding rave reviews) and decided I’d put my brain in neutral and try and enjoy myself. That was a good plan. What we’ve got here ain’t exactly rocket surgery. The good guys (gals?) are quintessentially good, the bad guys are sufficiently bad while still being funny (I could picture Wyatt on Dr Evil’s board o’ bad guys pretty easily), and the evil device that inserts subliminal advertising into the girls’ music is a big white machine kept in plain view. The whole thing comes down to selling kids crap they don’t need and a lonely girl who just needed a friend. The fun comes from the self-deprecating view the movie takes of itself, and the music/entertainment business in general. Think of Jay and Silent Bob’s attack on Hollywood in a much lighter mood, and you’re starting to get the picture. Nothing’s meant to be taken seriously, just enjoyed for what it is.

I also particularly enjoyed Tara Reid, far more than I expected to. She really steals the show with her squeaking voice and happy-clapping. Remember back in the old comics when they always drew musical notes into Melody’s speech bubbles? Reid actually manages to convey that fluffy lightness in her dialogue and movement. This might not have been nearly as enjoyable a flick if the role had gone to someone else.

Almost as entertaining is the fictional boy back, DuJour, featured at the top of the movie. They wrap every stereotype of ‘N Suck, the Backdoor Boys, etc, into one pouty, neurotic group of simians, and they do it well. I have an old high school friend who, honest to God, is now a member of a Canadian boy band (which will go unnamed), and while it’s been a long while since we’ve talked, I hope he hasn’t totally become these guys. I may have to “take him out” for his own protection.

(Side note: Justin mentions in the Intermission below that a good portion of the film was shot in Vancouver. I had forgotten all about this when I rented the movie, and ended up excitedly chattering away about how I’ve bowled in the alley where the girls were playing. Sadly, the Park Royal Bowling Alley is now no more)

Josie‘s got a movie personality that doesn’t always play well in other scenarios, but for some reason, it works here. It’s equal parts satire, overblown product placement, girls in tight clothes, and over-the-top spoof comedy all in one relatively cool package. Don’t get me wrong, there are a handful of parts that don’t work for some reason, and by the end, you’re looking at your watch wondering how long this movie actually is… the pacing isn’t the best. But it’s still fun! Isn’t that what we all want? Well, that and ears for hats, I guess. I never did figure that one out.

Canuck Alert! Eugene Levy, here seen extolling the wonderfulness that is America, is actually from Hamilton, Ontario. I find that endlessly amusing. Also, Vancouver rocker Bif Naked (whose album Justin impulse-bought while he stayed with me) is one of the vocalists behind the scenes for the band.

Shalen’s Rating: Hey, isn’t that Seth Green?

Shalen’s Review: So Justin has sent out another pitiful plea for reviews, because us Mutants tend to send in our work via the Lemming System of sending several at once and then relapsing into our work-induced comas1 for another month or so until the next gentle reminder that hey, guys, we ARE trying to run a web site for film reviews, so somebody needs to review some films. (Hey, Justin, how come you keep taking my emphasis capital letters away? I KNOW I saw you use those.) So I got to thinking, “Hey, I have done first reviews for about five films in a row. Why not completely do something a bunch of other people have done, ignoring Sue’s perfectly reasonable request for another review of Taps?”

So while we were getting ready to lift weights this morning, Sib2 was paging through her DVD collection and came up with this one. I figured it was better than letting her force me to watch Ever After ever again, we just did The Scorpion King recently, and I suspected she was probably tired of The Faculty by this time, so we settled on Josie and the Pussycats.

I was prepared to deeply hate this film. For one thing, it contains Rachel Leigh Cook of Instant Prom Glasses Removal Makeover2, and for another, all the reviews of it are by guys indicating fandom of ditto rather than the beautiful and vastly underrated Rosario Dawson. The combination of these two elements would normally cause me to try to sneak into my local video store with a blowtorch and destroy any copies of this film I could find before the police haul me away. But I restrained myself, because there is a time when a Mutant has to behave maturely, to look herself in the mirror and say, “Hey, at least Lindsay Lohan is not in it.”

So I watched it. Twice. And I will probably watch it again, Cthulhu help me.3 Yes, it is cute and sweet as a basket of chocolate puppies, but I had to forgive it that because this is a film that knows its own stupidity. And likes it. As at least one reviewer noted above, Tara Reid’s character more or less epitomizes the spirit of this movie. And even I have a hard time hating it for that. It’s just… so… cute!

I won’t bother summarizing the film for you, because if you get to this review you have probably read all the other ones already. Suffice it to say it’s about three cute people and their encounter with pop culture, only instead of being Almost Famous, it’s based on an Archie comic. The Sibs and I had fun counting the more subtle of the product placements (which most of them aren’t), including Tara Reid’s french fry loofah, and noting the change in Alan Cumming’s glasses before some color becomes the new some other color. Also, if you see this one after Blade Trinity4, it’s really hilarious to observe the fact that Parker Posey’s outfits in this one could easily be considered parodies of her outfits in that one, except that I can’t recall which was filmed first.

I’d highly recommend the DVD of this movie, because it contains two music videos for Du Jour, which are worth the price all by themselves. Alan Cumming IS the Man Who Likes to Open and Close His Cell Phone, and not only that, if you listen closely the lyrics to “Backdoor Lover” and “DuJour Around the World” are pretty funny in and of themselves.

I can see why Poolman says this film will save friendships. I personally plan to remind Sib2 of it every time she accuses me of not being girly enough because I hate chick movies. Thanks, “Pussyhats!”

1 I was going to say “work or baby-induced,” but then it occurred to me that I might seem to be implying that babies are not work. Not at all. In fact, this is a significant part of the reason why I do not want to have any.
2 Or She’s All That. I should have known better than to ever watch a film with both Freddie Prinze Jr. and Matthew Lillard in it. I had to be forcibly restrained from removing my own eyeballs with a fork.
3 I’ve decided there are too many Christians on this web site for a cult film site. Accordingly, I have decided to start a local branch of the Church of Cthulhu. We are accepting new members, and please indicate on the form whether you are willing to participate in human sacrifice.
4 All five of you who have seen both of those. And one of them is me, and one of them is Sibling 2.

Here they are, they're the Monkees!

Here they are, they’re the Monkees!

Intermission!

  • This is Kyle again, mentioning that there are Josie and the Pussycats dolls out to buy. I may have to buy the Josie one. Please don’t think less of me for it, okay?
  • The original creators of the cartoon, Ken Spears and Joe Ruby, aren’t taking any credit for the film. In fact, they think the movie has little to do with their pretty pussycats, saying: “Our show was a flat-out comedy with adventures and so forth. The movie looks like it has an MTV kind of sensibility to it. I’m sure there’s basically no correlation between the cartoon from 30 years ago and what they’re putting up on the screen.”
  • Getting the rights to the original theme song to Josie and the Pussycats wasn’t easy. For reasons unknown, Universal was fighting with Warner Music over how much it would cost to use the song. Then, it seemed that director Deborah Kaplan wasn’t even that interested in winning the battle. In fact, she was ready to forget using the song altogether, saying it was kind of stupid for a band to sing a song about themselves. In our opinion Deborah was the one being stupid for even making that statement. Duh! We all know that seeing the movie without the song would’ve been a tragedy (try and think about the upcoming live-action Scooby Doo flick without its theme song — pretty stupid, right?) Thankfully, Universal finally did snag the rights.
  • Justin: A street shown early in the film was shot in Vancouver (shopping district), which I swear PoolMan and I tread when I went up to visit him. He’s used to all the location nonsense, I however crave my scraps of fame. We were also in the Virgin record store shown (I bought the Moulin Rogue soundtrack there).
  • There is a heck of a lot of product placement in this movie, but the “selling through mind manipulation” angle kind of necessitates that angle. Or vice versa. Either way, if you get bored while watching (though how could you?) try counting how many different logos you can spot! It’s fun!
  • A lot of humor is derived from the fact that this is a movie based on a comic book/cartoon. Names get poked fun at, and one character even explains that she’s only here because she “was in the comic book.”
  • Riverdale looks like a drag, really. But Josie’s house looks like the coolest place on Earth, period. Pop punk rock chicks rule!
  • Speaking of Riverdale, Archie and his gang continue to languish in comic book hell while supporting characters Sabrina the teenage witch and now Josie and the Pussycats spring into the big time. Give us Jughead next,people!
  • In the opening scenes, Josie wears a Sid shirt referencing the Sex Pistols with a chain wrapped around her waist a few times. This is one of the greatest things ever. Hey, Rachael Leigh Cook, this is Kyle wondering if you ever date nasally cult film reviewers with zero future prospects?
  • Do Josie, Valerie and Melody have parents or responsibilities of any kind? And where do you meet girls like this?
  • The movie is based on the Archie Comic of the same name, which was also turned into a cartoon series that ran on CBS every Saturday morning from Sept. 12, 1970 to Sept. 2, 1972. However, directors Kaplan and Elfont decided to just take the Josie characters and use them as a jumping off point to make a movie with a message about the manufactured state of today’s pop-music industry.
  • If you’re familiar with the original cartoon, you might be wondering where Sebastian is. The band’s real cat just never made it into the script. (Justin: although Val is seen once with a grey cat, particularly in the trailer… that might have been him)
  • Girls’ neck muscles can express a lot of emotion
  • “Honk if you love pussycats” sign that gets partially blocked out
  • Du Jour means a lot of things more than just “of the day”
  • Girl mechanics = utterly hot
  • Brecken Meyer and Seth Green cameo as members of the boy band Du Jour
  • Screen subtitle: “DU JOUR 2000-2001”
  • Hehe… kidnap the freethinkers!
  • Pink is the new red… orange is the new pink… blue is the new orange
  • The FASHION, CAREER, SLANG desks
  • The message “Can’t Hardly Wait was underrated” in the underground complex (CHW was made by J&TP writer/directors, and also starred Seth Green)
  • “Barrymore, Diaz & Liu to play Pussycats in Josie Movie!” – Variety
  • The Target jet & the McDonalds bathroom
  • Girl slap fight!
  • Probably the first onscreen presence of a monkey in a full body cast
  • Josie’s original last name on the comics and TV cartoon series was James. In the movie, Josie’s last name, McCoy, begins with an “M,” just like Melody’s first name. Melody’s last name, Valentine, starts with a “V,” just like Valerie’s first name.
  • Director Harry Elfont is the plane captain who bails
  • Wyatt’s code to ditch the plane, “take the Chevy to levy,” is a reference to the Don McLean song “American Pie”, which is about the Buddy Holly/Ritchie Valens/Big Bopper plane crash.
  • Is It Worth Staying Through End Credits? Yes – check out the closing credit outtakes and Mr. MovieFone at the end saying “Jerkin!”

Groovy Quotes

Josie: You know what happens to puppies, Melody? The turn into dogs. And then they get old, and DIE.

Lance: We managed to land the plane just fine. Unfortunately, we landed in the parking lot of a Metallica concert. We got the crap beat out of us. Fortunately, I knew the words to “Enter Sandman”.

Mel: If I could go back in time, I’d meet Snoopy.

Mel: We’re going to be on TRL? Do I get to touch Carson?
Manager: Anywhere you like.
[at the time this movie was made, Tara Reid was dating Carson Daley]

Fiona: It’s Mr. MovieFone, he does all our subliminal messages.

Mel: I like this one, it’s got shiny knobs!

Eugene Levey: God bless the United States of America, the most ass-kicking country in the world!

Girl at slang desk: Instead of cool, it can be “jerky,” as in “Dude, that’s jerky!”

Alexander: I still don’t understand why you’re here.
Alexandra: I’m here cause I was in the comic book.
Alexander: What?
Alexandra: Nothing.

Alexander: [in the ladies room] It’s nothing I haven’t seen before.
Val: Does anyone have change for a tampon?
Alexander: I’ll be outside.

Josie: Like he’s really going to call the cops. [sirens blare] Run.

Manager: Girls, I can’t tell you how excited I am to be sitting here at the table with the Pussyhats.
Josie: Pussycats.

Alan M: Did you want to tell someone about something, but you weren’t sure if you should, uh?
Josie: Yeah.
Alan M: Cause you didn’t know that their reaction would be, or if it was the right thing to do.
Josie: You should tell them. You should always tell them.
Alan M: Cause there’s this guy at work who just REEKS!

Alexandra: You KNOW he’s lying.
Josie: You KNOW your fly’s open.

Guy #1: I gotta buy a six-pack of Zima!
Guy #2: Dude, you don’t drink.
Guy #1: I should start.

Melody: These walls are mushy!

Carson Daly: If I wasn’t a key player in this whole subliminal message thing, we could totally date!

Josie: Oh my god. I’m a trend pimp!

[Their thoughts.]
Josie: They’re all staring at me. I know what they’re thinking. They’re thinking I shouldn’t be here.
Val: They’re all staring at Josie. I know what they’re thinking. They’re thinking we shouldn’t be here.
Mel: [in song] If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands! [clap! clap!]

If you liked this movie, try these:

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