Josie and the Pussycats (film)

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Josie and the Pussycats
Theatrical release poster
Directed by
Written by
  • Harry Elfont
  • Deborah Kaplan
Based on
Produced by
CinematographyMatthew Libatique
Edited byPeter Teschner
Music byJohn Frizzell
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
(North America)
20th Century Fox
Release date
  • April 11, 2001 (2001-04-11) (United States)
Running time
98 minutes[1]
  • United States
  • Canada
Budget$22–39 million[2][3]
Box office$14.9 million[2]

Josie and the Pussycats is a 2001 musical comedy film co-produced by Universal Pictures and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Directed and co-written by Harry Elfont and Deborah Kaplan, the film is based on the Archie Comics series and the Hanna-Barbera cartoon of the same name. Filmed entirely in Vancouver, Canada,[4][5] the film features 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 commercial failure 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 successful boy band DuJour over a strange backing track they have discovered on their recent single. Wyatt and the plane's pilot parachute out of the jet, leaving it to crash with the band still on board, ensuring their deaths.

Landing outside of the town of Riverdale, Wyatt begins searching for a replacement band for DuJour, eventually discovering struggling local rock band The Pussycats: lead vocalist and guitarist Josie McCoy, drummer Melody Valentine, and bassist Valerie Brown. The group accepts Wyatt's immediate offer of a major record deal despite its seeming implausibility, and they are flown to New York City with their manager Alexander, his sister Alexandra, and Josie's friend Alan M. Wyatt renames the band "Josie and the Pussycats" without their permission. Meanwhile, MegaRecords CEO Fiona, in a meeting with world government representatives, details how the United States government has conspired with the music industry to hide subliminal messages in pop music to brainwash teenagers into buying consumer products. Musicians who discover the hidden messages in their music are made to disappear via staged plane crashes, drug overdoses and similar disasters.

The band's first single is released and, due to subliminal messaging, instantly becomes successful. 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 the pair before they uncover the conspiracy; they are sent to a fake appearance on Total Request Live where two fake Carson Dalys attempt to kill them, though the band survives due to their 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 arguing 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. However, Fiona catches her unawares.

MegaRecords have organized a giant pay-per-view concert that will be streamed online, wherein they plan to unleash a major subliminal message via themed cat ears headsets that viewers must buy to hear the audio. Fiona and Wyatt plan for Josie to perform solo, but when the band insists on performing together, the pair threaten to kill Melody and Valerie in a staged car explosion if they do not comply. However, the badly injured members of DuJour arrive and thwart the pair's plan, having survived the plane crash by landing the plane in the middle of a Metallica concert, where they were assaulted by fans.

Josie, Valerie and Melody fight Fiona, Wyatt and their security guards. During the tussle, 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 her lisp made her a social outcast in high school, 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; the two immediately bond. The government agents colluding with Fiona arrive, but with the conspiracy exposed, they arrest the pair as scapegoats to cover up their involvement in the scheme. They abandon the idea of spreading subliminal messages via music, deciding that movies are more effective.

Josie, Valerie, and Melody perform the concert together. Alan M arrives and confesses his love for Josie, who returns his feelings. The concert audience removes their headsets at Josie's suggestion and, able to judge the band on its own merits for the first time, roar their approval.


Johnny Depp, Gwen Stefani, Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears and Matt Damon appear as cardboard cut-outs during the TRL scene.


Beyoncé, Aaliyah and Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes auditioned for the role of Valerie Brown.[6][7] Elfont said that they wanted someone who knew how to do comedy, Lopes read for the part twice, she really wanted the role, Beyoncé was "quiet and shy" and Aaliyah was "serious and thoughtful".[7]

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.[8][better source needed]

Cook later expressed surprise as her casting: "somehow, they gave one of the title roles to me, and I cannot sing at all. I don't play guitar. I have no idea."[9] Cook said the producers considered her for the titular lead in Josie having remembered Cook from her audition for the lead role in Can't Hardly Wait (both films were co-written and directed by Kaplan and Elfont).[10]


Home media[edit]

Josie and the Pussycats was released on VHS and DVD by Universal Studios Home Video on August 21, 2001. The film's theatrical PG-13 rating from the MPAA in the United States caused some contention with licenser Archie Comics,[11] and a "Family-Friendly" PG-rated version was released alongside the theatrical version on home media in Full Screen (1.33:1) format. This version omitted a great deal of profanity and sexual references. The theatrical version was presented in the Widescreen (1.85:1) format.

The movie was released on home media internationally by MGM Home Entertainment (through 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment) on December 17, 2001.[12]

To coincide with the film's 20th Anniversary, the Blu-ray version was released for the first time through Mill Creek Entertainment on September 21, 2021 with most of the extras from the DVD release carried over.[13]


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.

The soundtrack was reissued on vinyl by Mondo in 2017.[14]

1."3 Small Words"Deborah Kaplan, Harry Elfont, Dave Gibbs, Adam DuritzBabyface, Gibbs2:52
2."Pretend to Be Nice"Adam SchlesingerBabyface3:52
3."Spin Around"Gibbs, DuritzBabyface, Gibbs3:15
4."You Don't See Me"Gibbs, Kaplan, Babyface, Jason Falkner, Steve Hurley, Dee Dee Gipson, Elfont, Jane Wiedlin, DuritzBabyface, Gibbs3:43
5."You're a Star"Duritz, Gibbs, Anna WaronkerBabyface, Gibbs2:07
6."Shapeshifter"Kay Hanley, Michael EisensteinBabyface, Gibbs3:01
7."I Wish You Well"WaronkerSchlesinger2:55
8."Real Wild Child"Johnny O'Keefe, Johnny Greenan, Dave OwensSchlesinger1:51
9."Come On"Gibbs, Duritz, Kaplan, Elfont, Babyface, Falkner, Hurley, Gipson, Wiedlin, Schlesinger, Hanley, EisensteinSchlesinger3:15
10."Money (That's What I Want)"Berry Gordy, Janie BradfordSchlesinger2:28
11."DuJour Around the World"Kaplan, Elfont, Brainz, Anthony PresidentPresidential Campaign2:57
12."Backdoor Lover"Kaplan, Elfont, Brainz, President, Guliano FrancoPresidential Campaign, Franco3:40
13."Josie and the Pussycats"William Hanna, Joseph Barbera, Hoyt CurtinSchlesinger1:43


Initial reception[edit]

The film grossed $14,866,015 at the U.S. box office, less than its production budget, an estimated $22–39 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. On Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating of 53% based on reviews from 123 critics. The site's consensus states: "This live-action update of Josie and the Pussycats offers up bubbly, fluffy fun, but the constant appearance of product placements seems rather hypocritical."[15] On Metacritic, the film scores a 47 out of 100, based on 29 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[16] Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film a grade B on scale of A to F.[17]

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.[18]

Cult status[edit]

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.[19] 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".[20] The Los Angeles Times wrote in 2017 that the film's "sharply satirical vision of the hyper-commercial record industry feels only more relevant."[21]

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,[22] and received an oral history feature in The Fader.[23]

Scrapped TV Series[edit]

A month before this film was released, DiC Entertainment, an animation studio with extensive ties to Archie Comics, announced it had bought the rights to create a cartoon featuring the characters,[24] and was planning to release it in the wake of this film.[25] However, these plans were scrapped. Likewise, not much about what this cartoon would had been is known.


  1. ^ a b "JOSIE AND THE PUSSYCATS (PG)". British Board of Film Classification. May 8, 2001. Retrieved December 2, 2012.
  2. ^ a b c "Josie and the Pussycats (2001)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved October 14, 2009.
  3. ^ "Josie and the Pussycats (2001)". The Numbers. Retrieved December 29, 2020.
  4. ^ ""It's dead on arrival": Josie and the Pussycats bombs at the box office". Graffiti With Punctuation. Retrieved February 26, 2021.
  5. ^ Siegel, Tatiana (December 15, 2014). "'Top Five's' Rosario Dawson: What I Really Think of 'Josie and the Pussycats' and 5 Other Career Confessions". Hollywood Reporter. The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved February 26, 2021.
  6. ^ "Diretor diz que Beyoncé fez teste para participar de "Josie e as Gatinhas"". Papel Pop (in Portuguese). September 27, 2017. Retrieved October 7, 2017.
  7. ^ a b Kaplan, Ilana (September 27, 2017). "'Josie and the Pussycats': Inside the 16th Anniversary Reunion & Concert". Billboard.
  8. ^ from DVD commentary
  9. ^ McLevy, Alex (September 4, 2020). "Rachael Leigh Cook passed out while leaping off a building during a shoot". The A.V. Club.
  10. ^ Nemiroff, Perri (August 31, 2020). "Rachael Leigh Cook Discusses Going to "Movie Jail" for 'Josie and the Pussycats'". Collider.
  11. ^ Silberkleit, Michael (August 11, 2001). "Heh, Josie, PG 13 -- say it isn't so!! What's up with that?!?". Archived from the original on August 11, 2001. Retrieved April 10, 2020.
  12. ^ "Josie and the Pussycats". December 17, 2001.
  13. ^ "Josie and the Pussycats 20th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray". September 2, 2021. Retrieved September 25, 2021.
  14. ^ "Josie and the Pussycats Soundtrack Gets Vinyl Reissue". Pitchfork. August 19, 2017. Retrieved January 3, 2018.
  15. ^ "Josie and the Pussycats". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved May 4, 2020.
  16. ^ "Josie and the Pussycats". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved March 4, 2020.
  17. ^ "JOSIE AND THE PUSSYCATS (2001) B". CinemaScore. Archived from the original on December 20, 2018.
  18. ^ Ebert, Roger (April 11, 2001). "Josie And The Pussycats". Chicago Sun-Times.
  19. ^ "Looking back at Josie And The Pussycats". Den of Geek. Retrieved January 3, 2019.
  20. ^ "Totally Jerking Case File 147:Josie and the Pussycats". The A.V. Club. The Onion. Retrieved October 7, 2009.
  21. ^ Wood, Mikael (September 25, 2017). "Misunderstood upon its release, 'Josie and the Pussycats' was ahead of its time". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 1, 2020.
  22. ^ Salud, April (September 27, 2017). "Josie and the Pussycats Rock LA Reunion Celebrating Vinyl Reissue & The Most Authentic Fake Band Ever". Billboard. Retrieved January 3, 2018.
  23. ^ Mandel, Leah. "The Best Fake Rock Band Ever". The Fader. Retrieved January 3, 2018.
  24. ^ "DIC buys global rights to Josie and the Pussycats". C21media. Retrieved September 13, 2022.
  25. ^ "DIC To Produce Josie And The Pussycats Animated Series". Animation World Network. Retrieved September 13, 2022.

External links[edit]