Josie and the Pussycats

So often nowadays, music video directors make the leap to film. They lend a kinetic, in-you-face quality to the movies they direct, oftentimes a refreshing break from standard methods. Josie and the Pussycats is the opposite. It feels like an overly long music video, with little to no plot, scantily clad women, and loud guitars. Even worse, it feels like a continuous commercial, pitching every product known to man at one point or another. There is a point to all this advertising: somewhere, lost within the movie is a message about blatant consumerism and the need for individual thought. This mixes in with another plot about three girls in a band making it into the big time and trying to stay together. The two stories do not fit well together.

The Pussycats (with vocals by Letters from Cleo's Kay Hanley) are a non-threatening mix of emo-ish/power-pop band, somewhere between riot grrl and girl power (grrl power maybe?). In the small town of Riverdale, they are outsiders, relegated to indifferent crowds at bowling alleys. Guitarist Josie (Rachael Leigh Cook, Blow Dry, Get Carter), bassist Val (Rosario Dawson, Light It Up, Down to You) and ditzy drummer Melody (Tara Reid, Just Visiting, Dr. T and the Women) are bandmates and the best of friends. Wyatt Frame (Alan Cumming, Spy Kids, Company Man) discovers them, and within a week they rocket to stardom. What they do not know is that Frame is broadcasting subliminal messages within their music, prompting teenagers to buy more CDs and all sorts of goods and services. Frame immediately renames the band "Josie and the Pussycats" and goes about trying to raise Josie's profile above her bandmates.

The best moments are at the beginning and the end. The very beginning has Dujour, an insipid boy band and clear parody of the milquetoast currently on pop radio. Dujour notices some strange sounds in a remix of their song (the subliminal messages), and Frame arranges for them to go missing. The end of the movie brings a loopiness missing from the rest of co-writers and co-directors Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfont's (Can't Hardly Wait, A Very Brady Sequel) story. Presumably, they wanted the entire movie to have this zaniness, but it doesn't. A nice part also has Melody and VJ Carson Daly (Reid's fiance in real life) meeting each other. The whole barren middle of the movie focuses on the Pussycats' meteoric rise and the increasing alienation of Val. The story never adequately explains why this is going on. Frame says he wants to get rid of Val and Melody, but why? To him, the entire band is expendable. There is no good reason for one person to be less expendable than the others.

Surprisingly, the best jokes are too subtle for most people. At one point, one of the characters make a reference to a comic book. Originally, Josie and the Pussycats existed in the world of Archie Comics, then moved to television. Now, like many other old television shows, it is attempting a movie to the big screen. Although better than some of the other adaptations, Josie and the Pussycats is still only so-so. Another great line has Cumming quoting Cypress Hill. Like its message of independence and originality, these jokes go way over the heads of the intended audience. There is a boring love story between Josie and a friend (Gabriel Mann, Outside Providence, Cherry Falls), but this only helps bring to the forefront how shallow Josie and friends are. Sure they are girls caught up in this sudden fame, but Elfont and Kaplan give them stupidity instead of innocence.

Haro Rates It: Okay.
1 hour, 38 minutes, Rated PG-13 for language and sensuality.

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