Josie and the Pussycats (film)
|Josie and the Pussycats|
Theatrical release poster
|Music by||John Frizzell|
|Edited by||Peter Teschner|
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
|Box office||$14.9 million|
Josie and the Pussycats is a 2001 musical comedy film released by Universal Pictures, and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Directed and co-written by Harry Elfont and Deborah Kaplan, the film is loosely based on the Archie Comics series and the Hanna-Barbera cartoon of the same name. The film stars Rachael Leigh Cook, Tara Reid, and Rosario Dawson as the Pussycats, with Alan Cumming, Parker Posey, Gabriel Mann, Paulo Costanzo, and Missi Pyle in supporting roles. The film received mixed reviews and was a box office bomb upon its initial release, but has enjoyed later success as a cult film.
Wyatt Frame, an executive with the pop music record label MegaRecords, is confronted on a private jet by boy band DuJour over a strange backing track they discovered on their recent single. Wyatt and the plane's pilot parachute out of the jet, leaving it to crash and "kill" the band.
Wyatt lands outside of the town of Riverdale, and begins searching for a band to replace DuJour. He discovers struggling local rock band The Pussycats: lead vocalist and guitarist Josie McCoy, drummer Melody Valentine, and bassist Valerie Brown. The group accept Wyatt's immediate offer of a major record deal despite its seeming implausibility, and are flown to New York City with their manager Alexander, his sister Alexandra, and Josie's friend Alan M. The group is rebranded "Josie and the Pussycats", to Valerie's chagrin.
Meanwhile, MegaRecords CEO Fiona meets with world government representatives. She details how the United States government has conspired with the music industry to add subliminal messages as backing tracks to pop music to brainwash teenagers into buying consumer products. The government theorizes that the economy can be stimulated by channeling the disposable income of young people into trendy and expensive goods; music artists who discover the truth are "killed".
The band's first single is released, and due to subliminal messaging, is an instant success. Valerie begins to resent the attention the label gives Josie, while Melody's uncanny behavioral perception makes her suspicious of Fiona. Fiona orders Wyatt to kill Valerie and Melody before they uncover the conspiracy; they are sent to a fake appearance on Total Request Live where Carson Daly attempts to kill them, though they survive due to his incompetence.
Wyatt gives Josie a copy of the group's latest single, which contains a subliminal message track designed to brainwash her into desiring a solo career. After an argument with her bandmates, Josie realizes that the single caused the fight. Her suspicions are confirmed when she uses a mixing board to make the subliminal track audible, but she is caught by Fiona.
MegaRecords have organized a giant pay-per-view concert, wherein they plan to unleash a major subliminal message. Fiona and Wyatt force Josie to perform solo by holding Melody and Valerie hostage, but are thwarted by the badly injured members of DuJour, who survived the plane crash. Fiona accidentally destroys the machine used to generate the messages, revealing the new subliminal message to be one that would make Fiona universally popular. Fiona reveals that she was a social outcast in high school due to her lisp, while Wyatt reveals that his appearance is a disguise—he went to the same high school as Fiona, but was a persecuted and unpopular albino. Fiona and Wyatt immediately fall in love. The government agents colluding with Fiona arrive, but with the conspiracy exposed, they arrest Fiona and Wyatt as scapegoats to cover up their involvement in the scheme.
Josie, Valerie, and Melody perform the concert together. Alan M arrives and confesses his love for Josie, who returns his feelings. The concert audience, able to judge the band on its merits for the first time, roar their approval.
- Rachael Leigh Cook as Josie McCoy, the Pussycats' main songwriter, lead singer and guitarist
- Tara Reid as Melody Valentine, the Pussycats' absent-minded blonde drummer and backup singer
- Rosario Dawson as Valerie Brown, the Pussycats' strong-willed and perceptive bassist and backup singer
- Gabriel Mann as Alan M. Mayberry, a folk guitarist and Josie's romantic interest
- Paulo Costanzo as Alexander Cabot, the band's flamboyant and snobby manager
- Missi Pyle as Alexandra Cabot, Alexander's talentless twin sister
- Alan Cumming as Wyatt Frame, a manipulative promoter who recruits and manages young bands for MegaRecords
- Parker Posey as Fiona, MegaRecords CEO who uses subliminal messages to manipulate teens' spending
- Tom Butler as Agent Kelly, the government agent who collaborates with Wyatt and Fiona in the scheme
- Donald Faison as DJ, of Du Jour
- Seth Green as Travis, of Du Jour
- Breckin Meyer as Marco, of Du Jour
- Alexander Martin as Les, of Du Jour
- Serena Altschul as herself
- Carson Daly as himself
- Aries Spears as the other Carson Daly
- Eugene Levy as himself
- Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds as the Chief
- Russ Leatherman as Mr. Moviefone
- Harry Elfont (director cameo) as Lex the pilot
Beyoncé, Aaliyah and Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes auditioned for the role of Valerie Brown. Elfont said that they wanted someone who knew how to do comedy, but Beyoncé was "quiet and shy" and Aaliyah was "serious and thoughtful". Lisa was tested twice, but the unknown actress Rosario Dawson was chosen for her ironic spirit.
In line with its theme of subliminal advertising, the inordinate degree of product placement in the film constitutes a running gag. Almost every scene features a mention or appearance of one or more famous brands, including Sega and the Dreamcast (Sega's mascot Sonic the Hedgehog also appears in Archie Comics), Motorola, Starbucks, Gatorade, Snapple, Evian, Target, Aquafina, America Online, Pizza Hut, Cartoon Network (which has aired the cartoon series on many occasions), Revlon, Kodak, Puma, Advil, Bounce, and more. None of the advertising was paid promotion by the represented brands; it was inserted voluntarily by the filmmakers.
Released by Sony Music Soundtrax and Playtone Records on March 27, 2001, Music from the Motion Picture Josie and the Pussycats was well-received, certifying a gold album with 500,000 copies despite the film's critical and commercial failure. Cook's singing voice was provided by Kay Hanley of the band Letters to Cleo, while backing vocals were provided by Cook, Reid, Dawson, and Bif Naked.
|1.||"3 Small Words"||Deborah Kaplan, Harry Elfont, Dave Gibbs, Adam Duritz||Babyface, Gibbs||2:52|
|2.||"Pretend to Be Nice"||Adam Schlesinger||Babyface||3:52|
|3.||"Spin Around"||Gibbs, Duritz||Babyface, Gibbs||3:15|
|4.||"You Don't See Me"||Gibbs, Kaplan, Babyface, Jason Falkner, Steve Hurley, Dee Dee Gipson, Elfont, Jane Wiedlin, Duritz||Babyface, Gibbs||3:43|
|5.||"You're a Star"||Duritz, Gibbs, Anna Waronker||Babyface, Gibbs||2:07|
|6.||"Shapeshifter"||Kay Hanley, Michael Eisenstein||Babyface, Gibbs||3:01|
|7.||"I Wish You Well"||Waronker||Schlesinger||2:55|
|8.||"Real Wild Child"||Johnny O'Keefe, Johnny Greenan, Dave Owens||Schlesinger||1:51|
|9.||"Come On"||Gibbs, Duritz, Kaplan, Elfont, Babyface, Falkner, Hurley, Gipson, Wiedlin, Schlesinger, Hanley, Eisenstein||Schlesinger||3:15|
|10.||"Money (That's What I Want)"||Berry Gordy, Janie Bradford||Schlesinger||2:28|
|11.||"DuJour Around the World"||Kaplan, Elfont, Brainz, Anthony President||Presidential Campaign||2:57|
|12.||"Backdoor Lover"||Kaplan, Elfont, Brainz, President, Guliano Franco||Presidential Campaign, Franco||3:40|
|13.||"Josie and the Pussycats"||William Hanna, Joseph Barbera, Hoyt Curtin||Schlesinger||1:43|
The film received mixed reviews. Based on the Hanna-Barbera series of the 70s, critics felt it (and other movies like it based on cartoons) did not work on screen. The film holds a 53% "Rotten" rating at Rotten Tomatoes, based on an average of 114 reviews, holding the consensus "This live-action update of Josie and the Pussycats offers up bubbly, fluffy fun, but the constant appearance of product placements seems rather hypocritical." On Metacritic, the film scores a 47 out of 100, based on 29 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".
Film critic Roger Ebert gave the film one-half of a star out of a possible four, commenting that "Josie and the Pussycats are not dumber than the Spice Girls, but they're as dumb as the Spice Girls, which is dumb enough", in an obvious comparison with the British girl group's 1997 feature film, Spice World, which was met with negative reviews, and to which Ebert had given the same score.
In the years subsequent to its initial release, Josie and the Pussycats has been reappraised by critics, and has found success as a cult film. The film has been praised for its satirical take on American pop culture, and for its prescience in satirizing product placement and the corporatization of the music industry. Evaluating the film for The A.V. Club in 2009, Nathan Rabin writes that it is "funny, sly and sweet" and "a sly, sustained spoof of consumerism". He rates the film as a "secret success". The Los Angeles Times wrote in 2017 that the film's "sharply satirical vision of the hyper-commercial record industry feels only more relevant."
To commemorate the vinyl reissue of the soundtrack in 2017, Josie and the Pussycats was screened by Alamo Drafthouse at the Ace Hotel in Los Angeles, with a performance by Hanley and a panel with Cook, Reid, and Dawson, and received an oral history feature in The Fader.
- "JOSIE AND THE PUSSYCATS (PG)". British Board of Film Classification. May 8, 2001. Retrieved December 2, 2012.
- "Josie and the Pussycats (2001)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved October 14, 2009.
- "Diretor diz que Beyoncé fez teste para participar de "Josie e as Gatinhas"". Papel Pop. Retrieved October 7, 2017.
- "Aaliyah, Beyoncé, and Left Eye Were Almost In Josie and the Pussycats". Jezebel. Retrieved October 7, 2017.
- from DVD commentary
- "Josie and the Pussycats Soundtrack Gets Vinyl Reissue". Pitchford. Retrieved January 3, 2018.
- "Josie and the Pussycats". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved December 27, 2010.
- "Josie and the Pussycats". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved March 14, 2015.
- "Josie And The Pussycats". Chicago Sun-Times.
- "Looking back at Josie And The Pussycats". Den of Geek. Retrieved January 3, 2019.
- "Totally Jerking Case File 147:Josie and the Pussycats". The A.V. Club. The Onion. Retrieved October 7, 2009.
- Wood, Mikael. "Misunderstood upon its release, 'Josie and the Pussycats' was ahead of its time". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 3, 2018.
- Salud, April. "Josie and the Pussycats Rock LA Reunion Celebrating Vinyl Reissue & The Most Authentic Fake Band Ever". Billboard. Retrieved January 3, 2018.
- Mandel, Leah. "The Best Fake Rock Band Ever". The Fader. Retrieved January 3, 2018.