Josie and the Pussycats (PG-13) ★★

Review Date: September 25th, 2001

Meow! The original riot girrls pounce back in this live-action revival of the

1960s Archie comic book and 1970s Hanna-Barbera cartoon series. Power popsters

Josie and the Pussycats pound out one song after another while thwarting a nefarious

plan to brainwash a generation of teens into mindless consumers. Imagine that.


Who better to save the world from scheming corporate slimeballs than three suburban

girls with spunk, smarts--sort of--and catchy choruses to spare? Singer and guitar-slinger

Josie (Rachael Leigh Cook) sets the agenda. Melody (Tara Reid), sweet but slowwitted,

bangs the drums. Bassist Val (Rosario Dawson), always watching out for her friends,

knows when something's rotten in sleepy Riverdale. Their dream to make it to the

top of the charts becomes a reality when creepy record manager Wyatt Frame (Alan

Cumming) offers the garage band a contract - without hearing a single note. See,

Frame's in hot water. He's missing his boy band. Seems an airplane carrying the

four members of DuJour - of ''Backdoor Lover'' fame - fell off the radar, whereabouts

still unknown. Before you can say boxed-set retrospective, Frame whisks the re-christened

Josie and the Pussycats to the big city to meet MegaRecords CEO Fiona (Parker

Posey) - just Fiona - and to record a No. 1 album. One week later, Josie and the

Pussycats rule. Only the pressures of fame threaten to tear apart these lifelong

friends. And just why are Frame and Fiona planting subliminal messages on such

Josie and the Pussycats songs as ''Pretend to be Nice'' and ''Small Words''? Could

it be that they want to brainwash the youth of America into buying more than just

the singles, CD and merchandizing? Will the Pussycats save the day? Of course:

all things must end in a catfight.


Does acting really matter when it comes to such a glossy but exuberant display

of teen spirit? Not really, but these feline friends certainly try hard. They

storm their way through the Monkees-style music-fueled montages, looking and acting

very much like today's aspiring pop divas. An enigmatic talent used to ill-effect

in such recent disasters as Get Carter, Antitrust and Blow Dry,

the charming Cook imbues Josie with wisdom beyond her years, even if it takes

Josie a while to figure out what's going down. Playing a prototypical blonde bimbo,

Reid delivers her dopey asides with breathy giddiness and sincerity. ''If I could

go back in time, I would want to meet Snoopy,'' Reid gushes in one of her more

enlightened moments. Of the three, Dawson has the least to do. She's tougher than

leather, but that's about it. The three do find themselves outmatched by Cumming

and Posey, who make a deliciously dastardly duo. Cumming is becoming an old pro

at this, having recently menaced Antonio Banderas and family in Spy Kids.

There are some fun cameos, including Eugene Levy, as himself, hosting a hysterical

promotional film about subliminal messages. Yet there's something creepy about

watching MTV personality Carson Daly chase real-life love Tara Reid with a baseball



That Josie and the Pussycats takes itself somewhat seriously as a screed

against rampant consumerism seems both ironic and bewildering. Writers and directors

Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfont - of Can't Hardly Wait fame, for what that's

worth - rally against corporate America's constant and often overpowering crusade

to persuade teens to buy their products. Yet every scene in the film - every scene!

- features a familiar brand of soft drink, shoes or clothes. This is not a film:

it's a shallow and insulting exercise in product placement. You can't see the

message for the ads. Besides, Josie and the Pussycats rarely reaches the

inspired heights of its opening. Otherwise, Kaplan and Elfont rely on yawn-inducing

MTV-style theatrics, tired pop cultural references and terribly self-conscious

in-jokes about the comic book to keep these cats on the prowl.

Bottom line

Despite its willing cast and peppy soundtrack, Josie and the Pussycats is a 98-minute infomercial for anything and everything. Scratch this one off your must-see list.