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Josie and the Pussycats

Josie and the Pussycats, a live-action version of the 1960s Archie Comic and the 1970s Hanna-Barbera animated series, is a harmless girlie trifle. Or at least it means to be. The cartoon, about threeabes in cat suits who play rock & roll, was a Britney Spears wet dream. But horny fan boys won’t find any kinky action in the film. Gone are the cat suits — fetishists will have to settle for pussycat carphones. In the Anywhere, USA town of Riverdale, songbird Josie, played by Rachael Leigh Cook, pines chastely for Alan M. (Gabriel Mann), a lanky musician who doesn’t even notice this kitty has titties. Until her makeover, that is. When record-company exec Wyatt Frame (Alan Cumming) signs Josie and her two garage-band pals — bubble-brained drummer Melody (Tara Reid) and attitude-for-days bassist Valerie (Rosario Dawson) — the girls bust out all over as Josie and the Pussycats. Then it’s sexy magazine covers and MTV and interviews with Carson Daly on Total Request Live. It’s all sweet, dumb fun. When — can you believe it? — Daly comes after Melody with a baseball bat. You heard me. Mr. TRL wants her dead. Takes a real swing at her pretty head. She swings back and breaks his arm. It’s an inside joke — Daly and Reid are engaged — that may traumatize the clueless little girls who will flock to this flick. Worse, Wyatt and his record-company boss, Fiona (Parker Posey), threaten to torch Melody and Val in a car explosion if Josie doesn’t go along with their plan to control teenage-buying habits through subliminal messages on Pussycat CDs. Nice touch. MovieFone provides the voice for the brainwashing, intoning, “Diet Coke is the new Pepsi” and “Heath Ledger is the new Matt Damon” underneath the Pussycat pop, co-produced by no less than Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds. Toxic touch: The movie plugs more products than the Home Shopping Network. For sheer commercial whoring, it beats Fiona. The last group to cross her was DuJour, a boy band modeled wickedly on N Sync — and those dudes went down in a plane crash. Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfont (Can’t Hardly Wait), who wrote and directed the film, seem to relish the nastiness. It’s a chance to fuck with the generic niceness of the Pussycats and let Cumming and Posey camp it up in style. My feeling is their cool-to-be-cruel stance is too hip for the room and a likely turnoff for preteen girls who don’t like fluffalls laced with bile.

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