April 20, 2001

Here, Kitty Kitty

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Based on a 60’s Archie comic book spin-off and a 70’s Hanna-Barbera cartoon show of the same name, Josie and the Pussycats is the story of three girls (played by Rachel Leigh Cook, Tara Reid, and Rosario Dawson) from a small town whose rock band is signed by a sleazy record company executive (Alan Cumming) and put on the road to becoming the next teen-pop mega-star icons. They soon learn, however, that they’re only the latest tools in a conspiracy to brainwash America’s teenagers through subliminal messages. It’s certainly a clever premise. Too bad it was funnier when it was done in the season premier of The Simpsons.

There’s a scene in the 1992 comedy Wayne’s World where Wayne, the host of a small cable-access talk show, discusses the evils of commercialism and whoring out to corporate sponsors. As he does this, he and his friend hold up a variety of famous snack-foods and name-brand articles of clothing. It’s a brief but clever bit of tongue-in-cheek satire, lasting maybe two minutes at most. Now, imagine those two minutes stretched out over an hour-and-a-half without adding any new content, until the scene is a Kate Moss-like shadow of its former self. If you can picture that, you can picture Josie.

Josie is set up to be a biting commentary on corporate America and modern teens’ drone-like devotion to the latest trends and fashions. However, unlike The Simpsons‘ episode or the Wayne’s World scene, the quality of the movie’s humor isn’t entirely consistent and the jokes are often recycled to the point of banality. The main theme of over-commercialization is the worst example of this. The first time directors Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfont present it — in the form of a private jet decked out with so many Target superstore logos that the interior looks like a flying shooting gallery — it draws a laugh. By the third or fourth time the joke’s done (same plane, just with Motorola logos), one starts to wonder if the directors are guilty of being unoriginal, hypocritical, or both.

Despite these shortcomings, the film still has its moments. Reid plays the sugary, airhead blonde so well it’s almost frightening. As she skips through the movie with such goofy energy, you can’t help but smile. The whiny boy-band parody, Du Jour, is a riot once you move past the rather crude and overdone homosexual innuendo in their introduction (their hit song is titled “Backdoor Lover,” har-har). Their behavior swings between over-the-top sensitivity to over-the-top wannabe gangsta. And of course, there’s a heaping amount of exploitation and fan service as the Pussycats dance from scene to scene in skimpy clothing and adorable fuzzy cat ears — as much exploitation as a PG-13 teeny-bopper film will allow for, anyway.

Archived article by Matt Chock