Donnie Darko, Fight Club, The Thing… all cult films that made no money at the box office but were critically acclaimed. Twenty years ago, Josie and the Kiskats joined that hallowed club….., or at least they were supposed to. Unfortunately, he never got over the reviewer’s initial disastrous reaction, and I’m saltier than a pretzel floating in the Dead Sea.
Short price for those who have not seen it.
First of all, why didn’t you see it? That’s great, and that was 20 years ago. Josie and the Pussycats, based on the Archie comics, was a fictional girl group that began in the 1960s and became the epitome of bubblegum pop.
The film takes it and updates it to 00 with songs by Kay Hanley (from The Cleo Letter), then places it in the context of a conspiracy of mind-controlled industrial villains, with Alan Cumming and Parker Posey providing the chorus. Can the Pussycats come back to their senses and stay friends?
Critics, fuck them if they don’t get a joke.
Creative partners Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfont, in their second year as directors (after the uber-90s, they can’t wait), delivered a non-stop, brilliant, light-hearted blast of fun with a satirical edge that somehow went completely over the heads of critics at the time. The film features wall-to-wall product placement as part of a meta-joke about marketing to girl/boy/television groups. The producers weren’t subtle, but a whole host of critics at the time mocked the film for being on your side.
Seriously, you have to pay very little attention to not realize this is a hoax? For the record: The manufacturers did not receive a penny from any of the brands used and even had to ask permission to use the logos. (That’s why Nike didn’t show up – its lawyers didn’t want anyone to make fun of the sweatshop giant.)
Going through today’s reviews is a sad experience for many reasons. The aforementioned clamor above us is deafening. Many of them don’t like to be misogynistic either.
Josie and the Pussycats aren’t dumber than the Spice Girls, but they’re just as dumb as the Spice Girls, and that’s dumb enough. – Roger Ebert.
There’s a joke in the Rolling Stone review, but then it says he’s too smart for teenage girls. (I know, right? Unbelievable, but it’s still there if you want to check).
This unfortunately put Kaplan and Elfont out of business and did the cast a disservice. Rachel Leigh Cook talked about being locked up in a film prison for years.
Reasons to be happy
At least we still have the film itself. It’s an absolute joy to watch and looked almost as fun. The credits show a gag reel with strings and confusion. More specifically, the DuJour comedy gang (Seth Green, Breckin Meyer, Donald Faison, and Alexander Martin) look like they’ve been filming their roles between sets and making each other laugh.
All the actors take the liberty of playing cartoon characters and making a big point of it. In particular, a delicious ham with Parker. Parker’s boss goes from Bond villain to comic Valley Girl in the blink of an eye, constantly breaking the fourth wall.
Missy Pyle complements her collection of characters with scenes featuring Alexandra Cabot, the sister of the Pussycats’ manager. Why is the manager’s sister in the movie? Because I was in a comic book. It is this willingness to be funny and then interested in the plot that makes the film so charming. Why don’t you ask someone to play Carson Daly? Why not two Carson Daly’s, one of whom is a real man? Was that a good joke? Then hit him there.
Josie And The Pussycats takes the anarchic, unbridled energy of Spice World (yes, yes, I know Spice World is terrible, but follow me) and amplifies it by casting talented actors in roles and anchoring it in a simple plot to hold it together. Oh, and the music is better too.
So if you haven’t seen it yet, do so and join the followers of this cult classic. It really should be more important than Scientology.
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