Josie and the Pussycats (film)

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Josie and the Pussycats
Theatrical release poster
Directed by
Produced by
Written by
  • Harry Elfont
  • Deborah Kaplan
Based on Josie and the Pussycats 
by Dan DeCarlo
Richard Goldwater
& John L. Goldwater
Music by John Frizzell
Cinematography Matthew Libatique
Edited by Peter Teschner
Distributed by
Release dates
  • April 11, 2001 (2001-04-11)
Running time
98 minutes[1]
  • United States
  • Canada
Language English
Budget $39 million[2]
Box office $14.9 million[2]

Josie and the Pussycats is a 2001 American 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 upon the Archie comic of the same name, as well as the Hanna-Barbera cartoon. The film stars Rachael Leigh Cook, Tara Reid, and Rosario Dawson as the Pussycats, with Alan Cumming, Parker Posey, and Gabriel Mann in supporting roles. The film received mixed reviews and was a box office bomb.


Wyatt Frame (Alan Cumming) is an executive with record label MegaRecords. The label, headed by the trend-conscious and scheming Fiona (Parker Posey), manufactures faddish pop bands for consumption by the teenage market. Conspiring with the United States government, they add subliminal messages under the music to brainwash teens into buying their records and other consumer products, creating "a new trend every week". The Government's plan is to build a robust economy from the "wads of cash" teenagers supposedly earn from babysitting and minimum wage jobs. When a member of Wyatt's wildly successful boy band, Du Jour, uncovers one such message and asks Wyatt about it aboard their private jet, Wyatt and the pilot (Harry Elfont) parachute out of the plane, leaving it to crash and kill the band members.

Wyatt lands just outside the town of Riverdale, and meets an unappreciated rock band, the Pussycats: vocalist/guitarist Josie McCoy (Rachael Leigh Cook), drummer Melody Valentine (Tara Reid), and bassist/backup vocalist Valerie Brown (Rosario Dawson). Because they are struggling financially, the Pussycats accept Wyatt's lucrative record deal despite its implausibility. They are flown to New York City where they are renamed "Josie and the Pussycats", much to the girls' discomfort. All goes well and their first single climbs rapidly to the top of the charts, but Valerie grows increasingly frustrated that all media attention is focused on Josie rather than the band as a whole. Melody, too simple to notice the undue attention Josie receives, uses her uncanny behavioral perception and becomes suspicious of Fiona and Wyatt.

Before Valerie and Melody's suspicions can reveal the conspiracy, Fiona orders Wyatt to kill them. He sends them without Josie to a fake television appearance on the MTV show Total Request Live, where an obviously fake Carson Daly impersonator and the real Carson Daly assault them with baseball bats. The girls survive due to their attackers' incompetence. Meanwhile, Wyatt prevents Josie from attending a gig by Alan M (Gabriel Mann), Josie's love interest, by telling her it was canceled. Instead, Josie listens to a remix of their latest single. The remix contains a subliminal message track designed to brainwash her into desiring a solo career, and into seeing Valerie and Melody are impediments to that goal. After an argument with her band mates, Josie realizes that the recording 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, whereby they plan to unleash their biggest subliminal message yet. They force Josie to perform solo on stage by holding Melody and Valerie hostage. The badly injured members of Du Jour—who survived by grounding their plane, but landed in the middle of a Metallica concert where they were severely beaten by Metallica fans—appear just in time to stop Wyatt and Fiona from launching the message. In the resulting fight, Josie destroys the machine used to generate the messages. The new subliminal message is revealed not to promote the band, the label, or a corporate sponsor, but to make Fiona universally popular. Fiona suffers a breakdown and reveals that she had been a social outcast in high school. Wyatt reveals that his appearance is a disguise—that 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 because the conspiracy is exposed, they arrest Fiona and Wyatt as scapegoats to cover-up the government's involvement in the failed scheme.

Josie, Valerie, and Melody perform the concert together, and for the first time their fans are able to judge the band on its merits, free of subliminal persuasion. Alan M arrives and confesses his love for Josie on stage, and she returns his feelings. The audience roars their approval as the film comes to a close.




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, McDonald's, 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.[3]


The film grossed $14,866,015 at the U.S. box office, less than its production budget, an estimated $39 million, resulting in a domestic box office bomb.[2]

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."[4] On Metacritic, the film scores a 47 out of 100, based on 29 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[5]

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."[6]

Evaluating the film for the Onion 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".[7]

Home media[edit]

When released on VHS and DVD on November 20, 2001, a "Family-Friendly" PG-rated version was released as well: this version omitted a great deal of the profanity and sexual references.


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.

  1. "3 Small Words" – Josie and the Pussycats (2:53)
  2. "Pretend to Be Nice" – Josie and the Pussycats (3:50)
  3. "Spin Around" – Josie and the Pussycats (3:17)
  4. "You Don't See Me" – Josie and the Pussycats (3:42)
  5. "You're a Star" – Josie and the Pussycats (2:04)
  6. "Shapeshifter" – Josie and the Pussycats (3:01)
  7. "I Wish You Well" – Josie and the Pussycats (2:55)
  8. "Real Wild Child" – Josie and the Pussycats (1:52)
  9. "Come On" – Josie and the Pussycats (3:17)
  10. "Money (That's What I Want)" – Josie and the Pussycats (2:28)
  11. "Du Jour Around the World" – Du Jour (2:56)
  12. "Backdoor Lover" – Du Jour (3:40)
  13. "Josie and the Pussycats Theme" – Josie and the Pussycats (1:43)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "JOSIE AND THE PUSSYCATS (PG)". British Board of Film Classification. 2001-05-08. Retrieved 2012-12-02. 
  2. ^ a b c "Josie and the Pussycats (2001)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2009-10-14. 
  3. ^ from DVD commentary
  4. ^ "Josie and the Pussycats". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved 2010-12-27. 
  5. ^ "Josie and the Pussycats". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved March 14, 2015. 
  6. ^ "Josie And The Pussycats". Chicago Sun-Times. 
  7. ^ "Totally Jerking Case File 147:Josie and the Pussycats". The A.V. Club. The Onion. Retrieved 2009-10-07. 

External links[edit]