Jump to content

Josie and the Pussycats (film)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Josie and the Pussycats
Theatrical release poster
Directed by
Written by
  • Harry Elfont
  • Deborah Kaplan
Based onJosie and the Pussycats
by Dan DeCarlo, and Archie Comics
Produced by
CinematographyMatthew Libatique
Edited byPeter Teschner
Music byJohn Frizzell
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
(North America)
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 satirical 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 both 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.

Although the film's soundtrack album was well received, charting at No. 16 on the Billboard 200 and quickly achieving Gold status, the film itself received mixed reviews and was a commercial failure upon its initial release. However, it has enjoyed later success as a cult film.


The members of successful boy band DuJour, signed to the pop music record label MegaRecords, confront Wyatt Frame, an executive with the label, on their private jet, expressing innocent concern about a strange backing track they have discovered on their recent single "DuJour Around the World". After the band members get into a fight, Wyatt and the plane's pilot parachute out of the jet, leaving it to crash with the band still on board, presumably "killing" them.

Landing outside 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 and backup vocalist Valerie Brown. The group accepts Wyatt's immediate offer of a major record deal despite its seeming implausibility, and they are soon flown to New York City with their manager Alexander Cabot, his sister Alexandra, and Josie's love interest Alan M. Wyatt renames the band "Josie and the Pussycats" without their permission, making them very uncomfortable. Meanwhile, MegaRecords CEO Fiona, in an underground 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 indoctrinate teenagers into buying consumer products as part of a new trend each week, thus helping to build a robust economy from the money the teenagers earn from minimum wage jobs such as babysitting. Musicians who discover the hidden messages are made to disappear via staged plane crashes, drug overdoses and similar disasters.

The band's first single "Pretend to Be Nice" is released and, due to subliminal messaging, instantly becomes successful, soon topping the charts. However, Valerie increasingly resents the attention the label gives Josie rather than the band as a whole, while Melody's uncanny behavioral perception makes her suspicious of Fiona and Wyatt. Fiona orders Wyatt to kill the pair before they uncover the conspiracy; they are sent to a fake appearance on MTV's Total Request Live where Carson Daly and a Carson Daly impersonator (Aries Spears) attempt to kill them with baseball bats, though the girls survive due to their attackers' incompetence. Rather than allow her to attend a gig by Alan M, claiming it was canceled, Wyatt instead gives Josie a copy of the group's latest single "You Don't See Me", 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 amplify the subliminal track. 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 hold Melody and Valerie hostage, threatening to kill them 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 severely assaulted by fans.

The trio fight Fiona, Wyatt and their security guards; during the tussle, Josie accidentally destroys the Megasound 8000, the machine used to generate the messages, revealing the new subliminal message to be one that would make Fiona universally popular. Fiona suffers a breakdown and 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 far 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.


Maggie Gyllenhaal and Zooey Deschanel both auditioned for the role of Josie, and while Kaplan and Elfont were enamored with the latter, the studio did not want to cast an unknown.[6] Beyoncé, Aaliyah and Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes auditioned for the role of Valerie.[7][8] Lopes in particular was very interested in the role and read for it twice.[8] Elfont stated that they wanted someone who was well versed in comedy, noting that Beyoncé was "quiet and shy" and Aaliyah was "serious and thoughtful".[8] Reid did not have to audition for the role of Melody, due to her popularity with the studio after the success of American Pie (1999).[6]

Cook later expressed surprise at 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 after having remembered Cook from her audition for the lead role in Can't Hardly Wait (1998); both films were co-written and directed by Kaplan and Elfont.[10]

Cook's singing voice in the film was provided by Kay Hanley of the band Letters to Cleo, while backing vocals were provided by Cook, Reid, Dawson, and Bif Naked.[8] Although the actresses did not perform the instrumentation on the songs themselves, they took music lessons in order to look as if they were playing the songs in the film.[11] The trio went through a "band camp" with the rock band Powder, learning their characters' instruments and rehearsing the songs for several months before filming.[8][12]

In line with its theme of subliminal advertising, the inordinate degree of product placement in the film constitutes a running gag.[13] 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.[6]


Released by Sony Music Soundtrax and Playtone Records on March 27, 2001, Josie and the Pussycats: Music from the Motion Picture was well-received and was certified gold for sales of 500,000 copies.[14] The album peaked at No. 16 on the Billboard 200.[15]

The soundtrack was reissued on vinyl by Mondo in 2017.[16]



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] Kaplan and Elfont both later attributed the film's failure to their lack of consideration of the fact that the film would be marketed to pre-pubescent girls: "I don't know why we weren't thinking that based on the property, we kind of forgot that's who they were going to sell it to, but that's when that panic set in. They're not going to sell it to the people who are going to understand this movie, and the people they're selling it to aren't going to get it. And that's kind of what happened."[6]


The film received mixed reviews. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 53% based on reviews from 125 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."[17] On Metacritic, the film scores a 47 out of 100, based on 29 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[18] Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film a B grade on a scale from A to F.[19]

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".[20] Ebert had given the British girl group's 1997 feature film Spice World the same rating.[21] Joe Leydon of Variety gave a positive review in which he praised the film's satire, music, and performances. Leydon wrote, "Sensationally exuberant, imaginatively crafted and intoxicatingly clever, Josie and the Pussycats shrewdly recycles a trifling curio of 1970s pop-culture kitsch as the linchpin for a freewheeling, candy-colored swirl of comicbook adventure, girl-power hijinks and prickly satirical barbs."[13] He concluded, "To a degree that recalls the flashy Depression era musicals and the nuclear-nightmare horror shows of the '50s, pic vividly conveys key aspects of the zeitgeist without ever stinting on the crowdpleasing fun and games. It's made for the megaplexes, but it's also one for the time capsule."[13]

Proposed TV series[edit]

A month before the 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,[22] and was planning to release it in the wake of the film.[23] However, these plans never came to fruition.[citation needed]

Legacy and reappraisal[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.[24] 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.[25] A year after the film's release, Kaplan met U2 frontman Bono, who told her he loved the film.[6] Elfont later elaborated that Bono "totally got it. That was within a year of it coming out, when we still thought people were going to get it and it would open people's eyes up to the music business. ... Until social media, we would always say, 'Well, at least Bono got it.'"[6]

Evaluating the film for The A.V. Club in 2009, Nathan Rabin opined that the film is "funny, sly and sweet" and "a sly, sustained spoof of consumerism", rating the film as a "secret success".[26] Mikael Wood of the Los Angeles Times wrote in 2017 that the film's "sharply satirical vision of the hyper-commercial record industry feels only more relevant."[27]

On September 26, 2017, to commemorate the first vinyl release of the film's soundtrack, Josie and the Pussycats was screened by Alamo Drafthouse at the Ace Hotel in Los Angeles, followed by a Q&A panel with Kaplan, Elfont, Cook, Reid, and Dawson and a performance of songs from the film by Hanley.[28][29] Additionally, an oral history on the film was featured in The Fader.[12]

DuJour appears in the 2021 Robot Chicken special "The Bleepin' Robot Chicken Archie Comics Special", with Green, Meyer and Faison reprising their roles and Cook reprising her role of Josie.[30]

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,[31] and a "Family-Friendly" PG-rated version was released alongside the theatrical version on home media. The "Family-Friendly" version omitted a great deal of profanity and sexual references. The theatrical version was presented in the Widescreen (1.85:1) format while the "Family-Friendly" version was presented in the Full Screen (1.33:1) format.

The movie was released on home media internationally by MGM Home Entertainment (through 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment) on December 17, 2001.[32]

To coincide with the film's 20th anniversary, the film was released on Blu-ray for the first time through Mill Creek Entertainment on September 21, 2021, with most of the extras from the DVD release carried over.[33]


  1. ^ a b "JOSIE AND THE PUSSYCATS (PG)". British Board of Film Classification. May 8, 2001. Archived from the original on June 4, 2021. Retrieved December 2, 2012.
  2. ^ a b c "Josie and the Pussycats (2001)". Box Office Mojo. Archived from the original on November 25, 2009. Retrieved October 14, 2009.
  3. ^ "Josie and the Pussycats (2001)". The Numbers. Archived from the original on February 14, 2022. Retrieved December 29, 2020.
  4. ^ ""It's dead on arrival": Josie and the Pussycats bombs at the box office". Graffiti With Punctuation. graffitiwithpunctuation.com. Archived from the original on February 13, 2022. 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. Archived from the original on April 17, 2021. Retrieved February 26, 2021.
  6. ^ a b c d e f Wieselman, Jarett (September 14, 2017). "7 Things You Didn't Know About "Josie And The Pussycats"". BuzzFeed News. Archived from the original on March 23, 2023. Retrieved March 22, 2023.
  7. ^ "Diretor diz que Beyoncé fez teste para participar de "Josie e as Gatinhas"". Papel Pop (in Portuguese). September 27, 2017. Archived from the original on October 7, 2017. Retrieved October 7, 2017.
  8. ^ a b c d e Kaplan, Ilana (September 27, 2017). "'Josie and the Pussycats': Inside the 16th Anniversary Reunion & Concert". Billboard. Archived from the original on September 18, 2021. Retrieved November 27, 2020.
  9. ^ McLevy, Alex (September 4, 2020). "Rachael Leigh Cook passed out while leaping off a building during a shoot". The A.V. Club. Archived from the original on September 7, 2020. Retrieved September 13, 2020.
  10. ^ Nemiroff, Perri (August 31, 2020). "Rachael Leigh Cook Discusses Going to "Movie Jail" for 'Josie and the Pussycats'". Collider. Archived from the original on September 18, 2021. Retrieved September 13, 2020.
  11. ^ Murphy, Gayl (April 11, 2001). "Josie and the Pussycats Stars Studied Hard". ABC News. Archived from the original on March 23, 2023. Retrieved March 22, 2023.
  12. ^ a b Mandel, Leah (September 25, 2017). "The Best Fake Rock Band Ever". The Fader. Archived from the original on September 18, 2021. Retrieved January 3, 2018.
  13. ^ a b c Leydon, Joe (April 6, 2001). "Josie and the Pussycats". Variety. Retrieved October 24, 2023.
  14. ^ "Gold & Platinum - RIAA". Recording Industry Association of America. Archived from the original on April 7, 2023. Retrieved March 22, 2023.
  15. ^ "Billboard 200". Billboard. September 29, 2001. Archived from the original on March 23, 2023. Retrieved March 22, 2023.
  16. ^ "Josie and the Pussycats Soundtrack Gets Vinyl Reissue". Pitchfork. August 19, 2017. Archived from the original on January 4, 2019. Retrieved January 3, 2018.
  17. ^ "Josie and the Pussycats". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Archived from the original on September 18, 2021. Retrieved May 4, 2020.
  18. ^ "Josie and the Pussycats". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Archived from the original on February 3, 2022. Retrieved March 4, 2020.
  19. ^ "JOSIE AND THE PUSSYCATS (2001) B". CinemaScore. Archived from the original on December 20, 2018.
  20. ^ Ebert, Roger (April 11, 2001). "Josie and the Pussycats movie review (2001)". rogerebert.com. Archived from the original on September 18, 2021. Retrieved February 1, 2020.
  21. ^ Ebert, Roger (January 23, 1998). "Spice World movie review & film summary (1998)". rogerebert.com. Archived from the original on March 23, 2023. Retrieved March 23, 2023.
  22. ^ "DIC buys global rights to Josie and the Pussycats". C21media. Archived from the original on September 13, 2022. Retrieved September 13, 2022.
  23. ^ "DIC To Produce Josie And The Pussycats Animated Series". Animation World Network. Archived from the original on September 13, 2022. Retrieved September 13, 2022.
  24. ^ Mancuso, Vinnie (April 12, 2021). "Not a Subliminal Message: 'Josie and the Pussycats' Is a Misunderstood Masterpiece". Collider. Retrieved October 24, 2023.
  25. ^ "Looking back at Josie And The Pussycats". Den of Geek. Archived from the original on September 18, 2021. Retrieved January 3, 2019.
  26. ^ "Totally Jerking Case File 147:Josie and the Pussycats". The A.V. Club. The Onion. September 30, 2009. Archived from the original on October 4, 2009. Retrieved October 7, 2009.
  27. ^ Wood, Mikael (September 25, 2017). "Misunderstood upon its release, 'Josie and the Pussycats' was ahead of its time". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on September 18, 2021. Retrieved January 1, 2020.
  28. ^ Salud, April (September 27, 2017). "Josie and the Pussycats Rock LA Reunion Celebrating Vinyl Reissue & The Most Authentic Fake Band Ever". Billboard. Archived from the original on September 18, 2021. Retrieved January 3, 2018.
  29. ^ Hughes, Hilary (November 22, 2017). "Josie & The Pussycats Are Way More Than A Fictional Band — Just Ask Kay Hanley". MTV. Archived from the original on April 7, 2023. Retrieved March 23, 2023.
  30. ^ Burlingame, Ross (April 21, 2021). "Robot Chicken's Archie Comics Special To Include Josie and the Pussycats Movie Reunion". comicbook.com. Archived from the original on December 29, 2022. Retrieved March 11, 2023.
  31. ^ Silberkleit, Michael (August 11, 2001). "Heh, Josie, PG 13 -- say it isn't so!! What's up with that?!?". archiecomics.com. Archived from the original on August 11, 2001. Retrieved April 10, 2020.
  32. ^ "Josie and the Pussycats". Amazon UK. December 17, 2001. Archived from the original on June 5, 2021. Retrieved June 5, 2021.
  33. ^ "Josie and the Pussycats 20th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray". Blu-ray.com. September 2, 2021. Archived from the original on September 25, 2021. Retrieved September 25, 2021.

External links[edit]