Josie and the
review by Cynthia Fuchs, 13 April 2001
demonstrated by artists as different from one another as Eminem,
Blink-182, and Andy Dick, there are many jokes to be made at the
expense of the current crop of pop stars. Sheesh, even MTV's Total
Request Live, so obviously devoted to promoting and exploiting
Britney Spears, Samantha Mumba, 'Nsync, Christina Aguilera, the
Backstreet Boys, Mandy Moore, Dream, 98 Degrees, Eden's Crush,
O-Town, etc. etc., is just fine with making fun of its cash cows.
The kids are easy targets, and mostly very good sports about the
so you won't likely be startled or even very impressed with the
ingenuity of the opening scene in Josie and the Pussycats,
which takes place on a tarmac, as a flamboyantly decked out boy band
deplanes and greets their fervent fans. When the so-aptly named Du
Jour spins into song and dance, it's clear that they have the BSB
moves down, from the turn on their heels to the dramatic fingers
across the eyes, from the billowing coats to the arms gesturing wide
to indicate the extent of their fabulous luuuv. (Apparently to
italicize the satire, the lyrics of this song, "Backdoor
Lover" are decidedly racier than most of the "real"
boy bands -- please note the scare quotes, as "real" is
mostly irrelevant when it comes to boy bands, except when discussing
girlies scream, the photographers snap pix, the handlers handle, and
the boys are whisked off to their next gig aboard their label-owned
jet. During the flight, Travis (Seth Green), Marco (Breckin Meyer),
Les (Alexander Martin), and the black one (Donald Faison) argue and
fret, while Wyatt (Alan Cumming) attempts to keep their outsized
egos under some control. "Remember," they sloganize at one
another, "Du Jour means cleanliness" and "Du Jour
means friendship." Yeah, yeah, we all know that Du Jour means
money. But to ensure that meaning, they have to behave. Realizing
that the boys in this band are getting a little too fractious, Wyatt
decides it's time for a new act.
is the moment where Josie and the Pussycats -- Josie McCoy (Rachael
Leigh Cook), Melody Valentine (Tara Reid), and the Latina one,
Valerie Brown (Rosario Dawson) -- come into his field of vision.
Literally, they cross the street while carrying their instruments
and find themselves deerlike in the headlights of Wyatt's car.
Though they wonder at the speed of their good fortune (Wyatt doesn't
even ask to hear them play before he whips out the contract), within
minutes, the girls in the band (real lead vocals by Kay Hanley,
ex-Letters to Cleo, with backup by Bif Naked and the actors
themselves), are signed with a major label and on their way to the
Big City, where they will be made over and packaged for sale.
and ridiculous as it sounds, the above set up is, as they say, only
the beginning. The rest of Josie and the Pussycats, written
and directed by Harry Elfont and Deborah Kaplan, concerns a very
silly scheme by the label (played by self-parodying Parker Posey) to
control kids' desires through subliminal messaging. How's that for
an adult anxiety? Music carries evil messages! (Or, as Melody
learns, via a note scrawled by a secret visitor in the steam of her
bathroom mirror: "Beware of the music.") Adults just don't
get it -- kids don't need extra impetus to buy Revlon, Starbucks,
Reeboks, Diesel, Pizza Hut, McDonalds, Target, Gatorade, or Coke.
Much like adults, kids buy what they can with their disposable
income. For teens and pre-teens, it's not about morality; it's about
finding an identity and trying on possibilities -- they're on their
way somewhere else, and they know it. And of course, Josie learns to
say, "I love you" to her utterly dull boyfriend Alan M
(Gabriel Mann) and all three girls learn that being friends is more
important than being in a band. They sell a lot of records too.
movie pretends that there's something else at stake, namely, the
free minds of America's youth. But its satire about the music biz,
its stars, star-making process, dastardly promoters and label
masterminds -- in short, all the "trend pimps" -- as well
as its chattel-like consumers, is tired already. The targets
themselves have already been there and done that. Consider 2Gether,
the "fake" boy band that MTV concocted for a TV movie and
series satirizing the pop process? Like Eminem, Blink-182, and Andy
Dick -- who have been downright mean in their spoofs -- the band
members all too old to be called boys) are bona fide pop stars now.
This despite and because of the fact that they make delirious fun of
boy-bandness, performing broad melodrama on and off stage, and nasty
songs about the hysteria that comes with youthful romance (in
"The Hardest Part About Breaking Up," is... "Getting
back your stuff!"). The girls who buy 2gether's records and
watch them on TV understand the satire, and like the (admittedly
soft) edge that provides: fans can be cynical and love their stars
at the same time. It's part of being young in the '00s. You have to
doubleness of the satire -- that kids recognize it as such and
recognize their participation in the process -- is partly tribute to
the wisdom of young consumers. They know. And they buy the
lunch-boxes and lip-gloss anyway. Even Mr. Awesome himself, Carson
Daly, gets it. In a perverse cameo as himself, he calls himself
"a key player in the plan to brainwash the whole of the
nation's youth with pop music." Well, it's cute, but no one
cares. He then tries to beat dumb-blond Melody to death with a
baseball bat. Need I remind anyone that Tara Reid and Daly are
affianced? It may be that this "inside fact" is supposed
to make their cartoonist life-and-death struggle all the more
hilarious, but the effect is more like an awkward pause in the
action. Really, no one cares.
very population whom the film appears to represent and target might
find the movie uninteresting, too obvious and tame: there's nothing
newsworthy here: even the fashions the girls are wearing -- those
way-low-riding pants and scarf tops -- are a few minutes too late.
You might say that Josie and the Pussycats gets half the
story right. In the film, it's adults who are insecure and uneasy,
who still believe there are fixed lines defining what's cool or
right or real, opposed to what's uncool or wrong or fictional. Most
kids -- at least those who might imagine themselves momentarily
reflected in MTV and the world of Josie -- know better.
still, the machine grinds on. The real payoff here is in the tie-in
products, and in the music: Josie and the Pussycats' video for
"Three Small Words" premiered on TRL on April 11.
As Kurt Cobain wore on his t-shirt so many years ago, corporate rock
still sucks. And so what?
Rachael Leigh Cook
PG-13 - Parents
Some material ma
be inappropriate for
children under 13