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Josie and the Pussycats  

Cast: Rachael Leigh Cook...............Josie McCoy
Tara Reid........................Melody Valentine
Rosario Dawson...................Valerie Brown
Alan Cumming.....................Wyatt Frame
Parker Posey.....................Fiona
Gabriel Mann.....................Alan M.
Paulo Costanzo...................Alexander Cabot
Missi Pyle.......................Alexandra Cabot
Tom Butler.......................Agent Kelly
Faedragh Carpenter...............Teenage Fan
Justin Chatwin...................Teenage Fan
Marites Pineda...................Teenage Fan

Directed by: Harry Elfont and Deborah Kaplan Written by: Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfont

Rated PG-13 for language and sensuality Running Time: 1 hour, 36 minutes
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Well, here we have a movie that is slightly better than last year's "Charlie's Angels". Okay, that's not much of a distinction, but I just assume lump the two together because with the exception of a couple minor elements, they're strikingly similar. Both venture toward the lowest common denominator of movie comedy. Both are centered around dimwitted personalities. What gives "Pussycats" a miniscule edge is its sporadic efforts at putting a comic spin on capitalism, although the satire isn't very sharp and too many of the jokes are recycled over and over. (Yeah, we noticed the product placements in the background. Let's move on to the next joke please.)

The movie does start off well. The story opens with a mass amplitude of screaming teenage fans at an airport to catch a glimpse of the fictitious boy band Du Jour. Before departing, the group immediately kicks into a rendition of their hit single (curiously entitled "Backdoor Lover") as their fans scream and cry. They subsequently board the jet with their manager, a sly Brit named Wyatt Frame (Alan Cumming). While flying the friendly skies, a couple band members question an unusual audio track mixed in to their latest CD. Something fishy is happening here, as the question causes Frame to skydive from the plane, ditching his clients for good. ("Take the Chevy to the levee," is the code phrase he says to the pilot, after which they immediately reach for their parachutes.) Now Frame is faced with the task of finding a new band to make famous.

Meanwhile, in the good ol' town of Riverdale, a young trio of musicians who call themselves "The Pussycats" are only able to get gigs playing in the local bowling alley. The euphonious felines are Josie McCoy (Rachael Leigh Cook) on lead guitar and vocals, Melody Valentine (Tara Reid) on drums, and Valerie Brown (Rosario Dawson) on bass guitar. Their luck is about to change for the better when they're spotted by the aforementioned agent. He gazes at them from behind his car windshield, Meatloaf's "Paradise By the Dashboard Light" playing in the background. He immediately signs them to MegaRecords, a label run with an iron fist by the gaudy Fiona (Parker Posey). Amazingly, in no more than a week are Josie and the Pussycats the nation's biggest hit. However, the new pop sensation doesn't realize that they're merely pawns in a conspiracy to corrupt the minds of the world's youth, mentally victimizing them via hidden messages in pop music.

The deliriously dippy conspiracy brewed by the feisty Fiona is the film's only fairly decent element. One scene has the record exec taking a tour group through her headquarters of manipulation, where ideas are tossed around in a conspiracy to eradicate the world of free, independent thought. Here, she explains her methods of luring unsuspecting bands with promises of instant fame and fortune, and also how she rids herself of them if they begin to ask questions. ("Ever wonder why so many rock stars are involved in plane crashes?")

Maybe if the lead characters were given something to do besides look cute I might have enjoyed the movie more. I don't have a problem with movies about dumb characters as long as they're allowed to participate in the story. ("Sugar and Spice" is a good example.) But here, the Pussycats are nothing more than mere set pieces - about as captivating as department store mannequins.

Movies like this and the aforementioned "Charlie's Angels" have caused many to question whether feature film remakes of previous tv shows, comic books, etc. should be made at all. I don't really think that's the issue here. The main flaw with these movies is the lackluster efforts behind them. One is tempted to place all the blame atop the shoulders of the directors. But I believe the real fault lies with the big Hollywood studios hoping to cash in on the mere notion of a remake. Maybe directors Harry Elfont and Deborah Kaplan were merely pawns in a conspiracy to rid the nation's youth of anything original. Sounds kind of familiar. Perhaps the movie was trying to tell us something after all.

Copyright 2001 Michael Brendan McLarney

Critically Ill

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