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   JOSIE AND THE PUSSYCATS (2001) 

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CAST
Rachael Leigh Cook
Tara Reid
Rosario Dawson
Alan Cumming
Parker Posey
Gabriel Mann
Paulo Costanzo
Missy Pyle

DIRECTED BY
Harry Elfont &
Deborah Kaplan

PURCHASE


DVD



Soundtrack




Time: 98 mins.
Rating: PG-13
Genre: Comedy/Romance


I can honestly say that there were two reasons I went to see this movie: I was deathly bored and I read some decent reviews. After sitting through this trite, empty flick, I was reminded why I write reviews instead of read them. I was expecting a nice, light comedy with some bite and a good soundtrack. Well, the music was great, but the rest of the movie smelled worse than my cat's litter box. I understand I may be somewhat out of the demographic for this film, but if it wasn't made for me – someone who actually saw and loved the original cartoon – it's attempt at satire is surely going to be lost on those still affected by Brittney and her teenage counterparts.

The ferocious product placement was enough to make me dizzy and compacted the lack of story issues. If truth be told, I wish the movie WAS one giant music video without all the inane dialogue and "wacky" intrigue. I'm sure I would have enjoyed myself more...and I don't even watch MTV. JOSIE is just another over-ripe teen love story about fitting in and true friendship styled in rock-n-roll clothing. The original music is the only thing with an edge here, unless you count the angles in Alan Cumming and Parker Posey's evil faces.

The film begins with the juxtaposition of Josie and the Pussycats local Riverdale gig where no one shows up and the arrival of boy band of the moment Du Jour as they kick off their concert tour in Riverdale. Oh, if only Josie (Cook), Val (Dawson) and Melody (Reid) could find fame and fortune like those guys. Du Jour's manager Wyatt (Cumming) spends most of his time keeping the boys from beating each other up. There's not much going on behind those pretty boy faces, but when they discover some hidden messages in their music, the label decides their ride on the fame train is over and helps them "disappear." Wyatt is now charged with finding a new band and fast. His boss, Fiona (Posey) has major plans that just can't wait.


"That's great. Even our manager wants to listen to another band."

How lucky for him that he runs into, quite literally, Josie and the Pussycats, who are in the middle of a confidence crisis. There's nothing like a major record contract to turn those frowns upside down. Josie tries to inject reason into the proceedings, but the chance to be rock stars is just too exciting to turn down. She'll finally get to realize her dreams. Never mind that Wyatt has never heard them play. Why let little details like that get you down? They are flown by private jet to "The City" where the girls promise to always be friends first and a band second. Josie also manages to finagle Wyatt into letting her secret love Alan M (Mann) come along.

Once in the city, they are treated like queens with fabulous new clothes, image makeovers and first class accommodations. Almost immediately after cutting their album, the songs are flying up the charts. Within a week, their single is No. 1. The success and instant fame are overwhelming. Josie doesn't get any time to see Alan M, now that Wyatt is in control of her schedule. He also seems to be keeping her and the girls apart. Everything appears to be about Josie with the Pussycats taking the backseat. Val gets a sinking suspicion that things, especially with Fiona, aren't quite right. Her inklings are confirmed when Wyatt sends them on a phony interview gig that almost ends up getting them killed. Of course, when they try to warn Josie she's already been brainwashed by Wyatt into thinking Val and Melody are losers and a waste of her time. So, much for friends first. The final act of the film has Josie discovering the truth about the messages in their music and trying to foil Wyatt and Fiona's evil plan to rule the world...or at least their small corner of it. In the end, Josie finds she IS talented enough to be a rock star and discovers true love in the bargain.

This would be all well and good,if any of it were the least bit original or clever. But it's really not. Making every scene into a commercial for 50 products isn't a satirical look on our consumer buying youth. It's just product placement. I'm not really sure what kind of story one could come up with that would turn a 30-minute cartoon into a 90-minute movie, but there had to be better ideas than this. CHARLIE'S ANGELS managed to come up with a decent story, great action and some big laughs off of a similarly vapid series. Of course, Drew, Cameron and Lucy can all act as well, so that helps. I have never seen a Rachael Leigh Cook film before this and from now on will make a conscience effort to avoid them all. She's attractive enough, but it's like watching a mannequin act. There's nothing behind those big brown eyes and her lack of charisma took a film without much of a pulse right down the toilet. Granted the lame script didn't help matters, but she was practically a black hole sucking the life out of every scene. Except the ones where she's singing, which is where she spent what little fire she's got. I have nothing against her, but she should not have been the lead in this picture.

Rosario Dawson and Tara Reid did admirable jobs with what they were given, especially in the scene where they are fighting for their lives. Reid plays the airhead Melody to perfection, making me wish she had more lines and a bigger part. At least she has energy and some sense of comic timing. Alan Cumming seems to be the bad guy du jour, as he's currently starring in SPY KIDS, which seems to be a much better movie if one considers the box office as any indication. I generally like his work and his smarmy evilness works well enough here. I guess there are no other British actors willing to play villains anymore. Perhaps he should learn the art of selection. Parker Posey, who I usually adore, way overplays her role of the mean-spirited Fiona, a woman who seems to have it all, but underneath just wants to be liked. Same old story, loser in high school, now grown up forces teens to retaliate against the world by trying to be number one. Blah, blah, blah. I never understood why anyone would want to be popular in high school. Talk about peaking early. I'd much rather be Bill Gates then the prom queen. Talk about geek justice.

In the end, style doesn't equal substance in this cinematic trifle. Better luck next time. This is definitely one to wait for on video or regular TV. Then you can turn it into a drinking game. One drink for every time Josie feels a lack of confidence, Melody bumps into something, Val feels left out, Fiona wears something outrageous or someone looks dreamily at Alan M. You'll be snockered in no time. Perhaps then you'll actually enjoy the movie. I know I would have.



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