It all opens with that first pop. Maybe it”s the quick, double time snap of the drums that pulls you in. Or the familiar backdrop, schwillin” groove of Steve Miller”s “The Joker.” When the lyrical deluge of “Angel of the Morning” eases in, Shaggy and his reggae roots have us under his hip pop pleasure control.
If you look simply on the surface level at this recent Billboard hit, “Angel” is a conglomerate of music that takes direct cues from both the “60s and “70s. It”s three songs in one. What then are we listening to? Is “Angel” even a song in the real sense of the word, or simply a well-crafted, easily recycled object of recognition, guilty pleasure or not.
“Josie and the Pussycats,” Harry Elfont and Deborah Kaplan”s follow-up to their early teen genre revival flop “Can”t Hardly Wait,” looks at this phenomenon and bears its paws. A funny satire on the commercialism of teenagers and pop music today blended with the tale of three rockin” ladies armed with drums, guitars, bass and vocals just ripe from their garage band days, “Josie and the Pussycats” (based off the Archie comic and the cartoon of the same name) is a self-conscious, product placement gag of a film. At times, it”s a sweet little kitty lapping up some warm milk at others, it”s a tomcat caught in a garbage disposal.
The too-cool-to-be-cool Rachael Leigh Cook plays Josie, the front woman for an alternative guitar pop trio (vocals by Letters to Cleo singer Kay Hanely) the Pussycats her best girls Val (Rosario Dawson) and Melanie (Tara Reid) cut their teeth at bass and drums, respectively. When the pop boy band sensation DuJour (a hilarious send-up of “N Sync and the Backstreet Boys, which features Seth Green in a red, fluffy stole) disappears in a “mysterious” plane crash near Riverdale, manager Wyatt Frame (Alan Cumming) heads into town to find the “next big thing.” Sure enough, what does Frame find, but three little kittens on their way to stardom.
Elfont and Kaplan”s script is so aware at times it”s a gem when Josie asks Alexandra (the nasty sister of their Riverdale manager) why she”s here, she retorts with “I”m here because I was in the comic book.” They go overboard, into that so hip, so cool, so funny territory that it”s just annoying.
Filled with product placements everywhere Target, Steve Madden, Starbucks, Ivory Soap this joke, too, wears a little thin and the film runs out of steam. After a week of being under the powers of Frame and Fiona (Parker Posey), the villainess behind “the whole conspiracy to brainwash the youth of America with pop music” says Carson Daly (who has a cameo in the film), Josie and the Pussycats are the top selling band in the country. But they”re not happy. You know the rest. Foil plot, the love story side plot, play big stadium concert, etc.
The music of “Josie and the Pussycats” works as both background tracks and part of the band”s actual songs. Kaplan and Elfont, who wrote many of lyrics, along with producer Babyface, seem to spin some fun, catchy girl pop that would have sold in the early to mid “90s during the Veruca Salt/Breeders era.
“Josie and the Pussycats” is tongue-in-cheek and a little smarter than what it looks to be. But this pussy”s still a little stankin”. I have to wonder. Here is a film that”s basically what it”s making a satire of: A commercially driven, merchandise frenzy released by a large studio. Do Elfont and Kaplan care?
“Josie and the Pussycats” is just another recycled movie, filled with scenes and events that we”ve all seen before from teen comedies and other TV, based-off-other-material films. Maybe these three little kittens didn”t lose their mittens, but they sure aren”t getting any pie.