To the people who keep making movies based on cheesy old TV shows: If you’re going to persist in this, despite the fact that 95 percent of them are box-office failures, could you at least come up with a good script? Is that too much to ask?
Someone wants to make a movie out of the old comic book and cartoon series “Josie and the Pussycats”? Fine. I mean, no one remembers it, and if they do it’s not with any great degree of fondness. But still, a good movie is a good movie, regardless of its source material.
But “Josie and the Pussycats” is not a good movie. Writer/directors Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfont apparently realized they couldn’t get by on nostalgia alone (since there’s not any) and that the film would need a satiric plot and self-aware attitude. So they put in some jokes like that and diddled around like imbeciles the rest of the time.
It begins quite well, actually, with a new boy band called DuJour (featuring an uncredited Seth Green) at the top of the pop charts. When they begin to realize there’s something fishy about their fey British manager Wyatt Frame (Alan Cumming), he causes their plane to crash. (“Take the Chevy to the levy,” he tells the pilot, in one of the film’s few smart references.) Frame promises Mega Records C.E.O. Fiona (Parker Posey, in full Glenn-Close-as-Cruella-DeVil campiness) that he’ll have a new No. 1 band for her by morning.
He finds himself in Riverdale, home to would-be rock girls The Pussycats: lead singer Josie (Rachael Leigh Cook), skeptical bass player Valerie (Rosario Dawson) and dumb blond drummer Melody (Tara Reid). Without even hearing them, Frame signs them to a recording contract and within a week — before they’ve even played a real gig — they’re the new sensation.
It’s all part of a master plan that Fiona has concocted with help from the U.S. government. In order to subdue and manipulate teens, subliminal messages are put on CDs. The messages not only guarantee the band’s success, but also dictate what trends, fashions and slang terms will be popular.
The musicians, of course, are mere pawns in the operation. The Pussycats have no idea what’s going on. All they know is that Wyatt is trying to shift the focus to Josie specifically and bump the other two band members out of the picture.
The boy-band satire is fairly sharp (Du Jour’s hit song is called “Back-Door Lover”), but sadly short-lived. Some of the teen-culture parody is nice, too — a girl shrieks, “If I don’t buy this CD, everyone’s going to hate me!” — but again, not enough of it. The product-placement is so rampant and obvious it must be a joke, but no punch line is given.
Instead, a lot of time is spent on Josie’s irrelevant almost-romance with local boy Alan M. (Gabriel Mann). Her sleazy manager Alexander (Paulo Costanzo) and his sister Alexandra (Missi Pyle) also hang around, only because they were in the original comic book and TV cartoon, too.
With no nostalgia to draw people in, and no compelling humor, characters or situations to keep them there, how can the film succeed? Only via marketing, which may actually be a force to be reckoned with here. The MTV crowd is being targeted directly, and that network’s lead goon Carson Daly has an amusing cameo. So just like the fictitious bands featured in the movie, the movie itself might become a success because of hype and commercialism, and not because of quality. It’s the kind of irony the movie could have used more of.
D+ (; )