Spice World (film)
UK theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Bob Spiers|
|Screenplay by||Kim Fuller|
|Music by||Paul Hardcastle|
|Edited by||Andrea MacArthur|
|Distributed by||PolyGram Filmed Entertainment|
|Box office||$151 million|
Spice World is a 1997 British musical comedy film directed by Bob Spiers and written by Kim Fuller. The film stars pop girl group the Spice Girls who all play themselves. The film—made in a similar vein to the Beatles' A Hard Day's Night (1964)—depicts a series of fictional events leading up to a major concert at London's Royal Albert Hall, liberally interspersed with dream sequences and flashbacks as well as surreal moments and humorous asides.
This is the second feature-length film directed by Spiers, following That Darn Cat (1997). The film features Richard E. Grant, Claire Rushbrook, Naoko Mori, Meat Loaf, Barry Humphries, and Alan Cumming in supporting roles. Filming took place in London for six of the eight filming weeks and also inside Twickenham Studios, as well as at over 40 famous British landmarks. Shooting featured several fourteen-hour shooting sessions and a constant, heavy media presence due to the Spice Girls' large popularity at the time.
The film premiered in the United Kingdom on 15 December 1997, ahead of its wide theatrical release on the British holiday Boxing Day (26 December). In North America, it was released on 23 January 1998 by Columbia Pictures. In the United States, Spice World became a box office success and broke the record for the highest-ever weekend debut for Super Bowl weekend with box office sales of $10,527,222. The film grossed $151 million at the box office worldwide and over $100 million including DVD sales. Despite being a box office success, the film received primarily negative reviews.
To celebrate its 20th Anniversary in 2017, Spice World was given a limited release across the United Kingdom showing at Odeon Cinemas. The film grossed just shy of £1 million bringing the total gross income $151 million worldwide. Spice World is the highest-grossing movie of all time by a musical group.
The film begins with the Spice Girls performing their song "Too Much" on Top of the Pops, but they become dissatisfied with the burdens of fame and fortune. Meanwhile, sinister newspaper owner Kevin McMaxford is trying to ruin the girls' reputation for his newspaper's ratings. McMaxford dispatches photographer Damien to take pictures and tape recordings of the girls. Less threatening but more annoying is Piers Cuthbertson-Smyth, who stalks the girls along with his camera crew, hoping to use them as subjects for his next project. At the same time, the girls' manager, Clifford, is fending off two over-eager Hollywood writers, Martin Barnfield and Graydon, who relentlessly pitch absurd plot ideas for the girls' feature film.
Amid this, the girls must prepare for their live concert at the Royal Albert Hall in three days, the biggest performance of their career. At the heart of it, the constant rehearsals, traveling, publicity appearances, and other burdens of celebrity affect the girls on a personal level, preventing them from spending much time with their pregnant best friend, Nicola, who is due to give birth soon. Throughout the busy schedule, the girls try to ask Clifford for time off to spend with Nicola and relax, but Clifford refuses after talking with the head of the girls' record label, the cryptic and eccentric "Chief". The stress and overwork compound, which culminate in the girls' huge argument with Clifford. The girls suddenly storm out on the evening before their gig at the Albert Hall.
The girls separately think back on their humble beginnings and their struggle to the top. They reunite by chance outside the abandoned café where they practiced during their adolescent years, they reconcile, and decide to take Nicola out dancing. However, Nicola's contractions start at the nightclub and is rushed to the hospital in the girls' bus, giving birth to a healthy baby girl. When Emma notices that the delivery "doctor" has a camera, the girls realize that he is Damien, who runs off with the girls in hot pursuit, only to hit his head after accidentally colliding with an empty stretcher. When Damien sees the girls standing over him, he tells them that they have made him see the error of his ways, and he goes after McMaxford, who is subsequently fired in a "Jacuzzi scandal". After noticing the girls' bus driver, Dennis, is missing, Victoria decides to take the wheel. It becomes a race against time as Victoria drives recklessly through London. While approaching Tower Bridge, the bridge begins to raise to let a boat through the River Thames. Victoria drives up the bridge and over the gap. The bus finally lands safely on the other side, but when Emma opens a trapdoor in the floor, she discovers a bomb, and the girls scream before Emma slams the trapdoor shut again.
The girls finally arrive at the Albert Hall for their performance and run up the steps. However, the girls have one more obstacle to overcome: a London policeman charges the girls with "dangerous driving, criminal damage, flying a bus without a licence, and frightening the pigeons". Emma pushes forward and tells the policeman that she and the other girls were late for their performance at the Albert Hall. Emma smiles at the policeman, and he lets the girls off for their performance. The film ends when the girls perform their song "Spice Up Your Life" at the start of their Albert Hall concert, which is broadcast live on television in Britain and around the world. The supporting cast later talk about the girls' film during the closing credits. Mel C breaks the fourth wall and tells the other girls that the outgoing audience is watching them. The girls talk to the audience, commenting on "those two in the back row snogging" and on one's dress, and discuss their film, just minutes before the bomb in their bus explodes.
Spiers had been working in America on the Disney film That Darn Cat at the peak of the Spice Girls' popularity. He was unaware of the group when first offered the job until his friend Jennifer Saunders advised that he take it. He arrived at a meeting with them in a New York hotel unaware of what they looked like.
Frank Bruno was originally cast as the tour bus driver, but withdrew after a security guard prevented his son Franklin having an on-set photo taken with the girls.
The film reunited Meat Loaf and Richard O'Brien, who co-starred in the 1975 classic film The Rocky Horror Picture Show. The film also reunited O'Brien and Barry Humphries, who costarred in the Rocky Horror follow-up, Shock Treatment (1981).
"Their company rang me up and asked if I would be in it", remarked Elvis Costello of his cameo. "I wouldn't have thought I was the kind of face you would get to do a cornflakes advert. Maybe twenty years ago. I was surprised."
Gary Glitter controversy
Gary Glitter filmed a four-minute cameo appearance as himself, but shortly before the film was to be released he was arrested on child pornography offences. The Spice Girls and the production team agreed that his cameo should be deleted from the final print. The performance of Glitter's "I'm the Leader of the Gang (I Am)" was retained. Glitter's scene has since been leaked online.
An official motion picture soundtrack has not been released, since their second studio album, Spiceworld, was released at the time, heavily promoted and serving as the film's soundtrack. The only song from Spiceworld not to appear in the film is "Move Over". The songs appearing in the film are in order of appearance.
The main song of the film "Too Much" debuted atop the UK Singles Chart, becoming the Spice Girls' second consecutive Christmas number-one single. It made the group the first act to reach number one with their first six singles, and the first to debut atop the chart five times in a row. The single spent two weeks at number one, and was certified platinum by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) on 9 January 1998.
In the United Kingdom, Spice World was granted a PG certificate by the British Board of Film Classification for "mild bad language, mild sex references". In the United States, it received a PG rating from the Motion Picture Association of America for "some vulgarity, brief nudity and language".
Official toy versions of the Spice Bus were produced upon the release of the movie.
Spice World: The 10th Anniversary Edition was released on DVD on 19 November 2007 in the United Kingdom and Australia and on 27 November 2007 in the United States.
In 2017, the film was screened at various cinemas in the UK and Australia to mark its 20th anniversary. Plans to re-release the movie in other worldwide territories are currently underway.
Spice World was a number-one box office success in the United Kingdom, grossing more than £6.8 million during its opening weekend on Boxing Day, 1997 setting a record opening week for a British film in the U.K. The film was also successful at the box office in the United States, breaking the record at that time for the highest-ever weekend debut for Super Bowl weekend (25 January 1998), with box office sales of $10,527,222. The film took in total $151 million at the box office worldwide.
The film was released on VHS in May 1998 in many regions including the UK, Germany, Spain, the Netherlands, Japan and Australia. In June 1998, it came out on VHS in the US and Canada. Despite concerns that the high-profile departure of Halliwell from the Spice Girls would affect sales, global demand for the VHS was high. In the UK, the film was number one on the video charts for six consecutive weeks, was certified 11x Platinum, and became the ninth best-selling video of 1998. In the US, the film peaked at number one on the video charts for five consecutive weeks and was the fifth best-selling video of 1998.
The film received generally negative reviews from critics. Film review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gave Spice World a rating of 34% based on reviews from 64 critics, with an average rating of 4.7 out of 10 and a critic consensus that reads "Spice World's lack of cohesive plot will likely lose most viewers, but for fans of the titular girl group there's more than enough fun to be had in their wacky -- albeit superficial -- whirlwind of an adventure." On Metacritic, the film has a 32 out of 100 rating, based on 16 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews". AllMovie gave it two out of five stars.
Noted American film critic Roger Ebert gave the film one-half of a star and listed Spice World as one of his most hated films, saying: "The Spice Girls are easier to tell apart than the Mutant Ninja Turtles, but that is small consolation: What can you say about five women whose principal distinguishing characteristic is that they have different names? They occupy Spice World as if they were watching it: They're so detached they can't even successfully lip-synch their own songs." And when he reviewed the film on his and Gene Siskel's film critique programme Siskel & Ebert, only three weeks into 1998, he declared that he had already seen the worst film of that year, and called it "an entertainment-free dead zone". Ebert would include this film on the Worst of 1998 special; but he chose Armageddon as the worst film of 1998.
Janet Maslin of The New York Times stated that the film "is pleasant and painless enough to amuse ardent fans, who figure in the film quite often." She also noted that while it got a PG rating in the United States, "nothing about it should disturb its target audience of media-wise, fun-loving 8-year-old girls." Writing for Sight and Sound, in a positive review, Mark Sinker placed it alongside The Monkees' 1968 cult film Head. He went on to say that it "sends up the amiable idiocy of pop packaging - and the slow witted mass-media response to it" and it was "tirelessly generous in its energy".
Derek Elley, resident film critic for Variety, gave the film mixed reviews, calling the film "bright and breezy" and "as timely but evanescent as the Cool Britannia culture it celebrates". He stated that the film would "delight the Fab Five's pre-pubescent fans" but that it would "be forgotten within six months".
The film has been listed in Golden Raspberry Awards founder John Wilson's book The Official Razzie Movie Guide as one of "The 100 Most Enjoyably Bad Movies Ever Made". Along with the nominations and wins racked up at the 1998 Stinkers Bad Movie Awards, Spice World would be listed in their upcoming "100 Years, 100 Stinkers" list, in which people voted for the 100 worst movies of the 20th century. The film was ranked at #5.
|Golden Raspberry Award||Worst Actress||Spice Girls||Won|
|Worst New Star||Nominated|
|Worst Original Song ("Too Much")||Nominated|
|Worst Supporting Actor||Roger Moore||Nominated|
|Worst Screen Couple||Any combination of two people, body parts or fashion accessories||Nominated|
|Worst Screenplay||Jamie Curtis||Nominated|
|Worst Picture||Uri Fruchtmann||Nominated|
|Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Award||Favorite Movie Actress||Spice Girls||Nominated|
|Blockbuster Entertainment Award||Favorite Movie Actress in a Comedy||Spice Girls||Nominated|
|Stinkers Bad Movie Awards||Worst Picture||Sony, Columbia||Won|
|Worst Actress or British Singing Group Pretending to Act||Spice Girls||Won|
|Worst Sense of Direction||Bob Spiers||Nominated|
|Worst On-Screen Hairstyle||Scary Spice||Nominated|
|Worst Song in a Motion Picture||"Spice Up Your Life"||Nominated|
Legacy and cult status
The film, while being negatively reviewed, is remembered fondly by many who were part of its target audience of younger pop fans at the time of its release. It has arguably achieved cult status as a commentary on pop culture. The film is considered as cult, describing it as a brilliant film, even a masterpiece of the parody genre, that mocks both the starsystem and clichés of the cinema, while giving many winks to popular culture of the time.
In 2010, Emma Bunton revealed that there were plans for a sequel following the release of Spice World in 1997, stating: "We would've liked to do another film, but after Spice World, there was an album, then a tour and then Geri left, so it didn't happen." She also told the press that a Spice Girl stage show was currently in development with producer Judy Craymer and the team behind Mamma Mia!. Viva Forever! ran on the West End from December 2012 to June 2013 and was a critical and commercial failure.
Speaking in January 2019, following the announcement of the Spice Girls reunion tour, band manager Simon Fuller confirmed plans to make an animated sequel to Spice World. On 13 June 2019, it was reported that Paramount Animation president Mireille Soria had green lit the project, with all five members of the band returning. The project will be produced by Simon Fuller, with Karen McCullah and Kiki Smith writing the screenplay, and will feature both previous and original songs. The film will feature the band as superheroes. A director has not yet been announced.
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