Josie and the Pussycats (review)

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Kitty Cornered

I’m sure your first thought upon learning that Josie and the Pussycats — Archie comic and Hanna-Barbera cartoon — was being reincarnated as a live-action movie was the same as my first thought: Verily, ’twill be cause for Master Shakespeare to spin within his cold grave!

Of course, you’d have been as sarcastic as I was, and still you wouldn’t be prepared for the new low in mindless vapidity that Josie and the Pussycats achieves. Hard as it may be to believe, the animated Saturday-morning antics of the girl band with the cat tails was more high-brow than this unwatchable mess. Okay, I confess, I barely remember the cartoon — did they solve mysteries or something, or just play bland pop music? — but it can’t possibly have been this inane.
The absolutely nonsensical plot: The girl band called The Pussycats, who think they’re cool and grungy but are a perfect example of the tedious corporate rock of which they’re supposed to be the antithesis, are “discovered” by MegaRecords and used as pawns in an evil scheme to — *gasp* — make teenagers buy stuff. The Pussycats are “spunky” Josie, played by the plasticine Rachael Leigh Cook (Antitrust, All I Wanna Do), whose face is so immobile she might as well be a mannequin, like she’s afraid at 19 or however old she is that she might get wrinkles if a smile reaches her eyes; “ditzy” Melody (Tara Reid), who runs around and bumps into things a lot, and if her hip-huggers were cut any lower, we’d all have to marry her in some cultures; and Valerie (Rosario Dawson), bereft of even a cardboard attempt at characterization. MegaRecords are manager Wyatt, played by the increasingly annoying Alan Cumming (Spy Kids, Urbania), and CEO Fiona, played by the increasingly grating Parker Posey (Best in Show, You’ve Got Mail).

The writing/directing team of Harry Elfont and Deborah Kaplan (both of whom also perpetrated The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas) deserve particular condemnation for their have- their- cake- and- eat- it- too attempt to damn our consumer culture — MegaRecords is planting subliminal messages on its CDs to incite new teen trends — while reveling in perhaps the most obnoxious product placement ever seen on film. There are more brand names per minute in Josie and the Pussycats than a stroll through the Mall of America. Not a single flat surface, not a background, not a t-shirt, not a shopping bag, not an inch of film isn’t covered with multiple logos and products fighting for attention not only amongst themselves but with the main action… which doesn’t need the competition.

Imagine already suffering through a film aimed Drink Duff beer! Oh yeah! at giggly fans of Backstreet Boys and full of Laramie Cigarettes: the choice of ominous cigarette-smoking men everywhere hair-and-makeup montages, like sitting in the middle of a Drink Mococoa! The chocolatiest cocoa there is slumber party full of 12-year-old girls, and there, hovering over Parker Posey’s shoulder Ocelot, the most beloved British sports coupe ever is a logo for a cosmetics company or a URL for a Web site or Buy the new Banana Junior 3000 computer a can of brand-name cola. You’d think it’d be a welcome distraction from Mega-Lo-Mart. If we don’t sell it, you don’t need it Posey’s hideous ain’t- I- evil rictus or Cook’s extruded face attempting to emote, but you’d be wrong. It’s like being flattened into your seat and smacked about the head.

Atrociously written — “Backdoor Lover,” the “hit” song sung by the film’s boy-band parody, Du Jour, is particularly cringe-inducing — and apparently directed with the priority of keeping brand names in frame, this is one jaw-droppingly awful movie. I want to know just one thing: Why does MegaRecord’s recording studio look like the console room of the TARDIS, and where is Doctor Who when you need him to fight universe-threatening evil like Josie and the Pussycats?

Promotional considerations paid by:
Duff beer
Laramie cigarettes
Mococoa hot chocolate mix
Ocelot Motors
Banana Computers

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