Let’s not kid ourselves: Josie and the Pussycats is terrible. This is an embarrassingly late 90s/early 2000s movie that has not aged well. That said, it’s kind of brilliant in a weird way. Though it’s underlying cleverness is too clever for its target audience.
This movie bombed when it was released, and it’s not completely surprising. I grew up reading Archie comics, so I was casually acquainted with the Pussycats when this came out. None of my friends had any clue who these girls were. Not that resurrecting a forgotten cartoon is a bad idea, but I think there needs to be some level of name recognition to ensure success. Josie just doesn’t have that, so the lines that directly reference the comics fall flat. The secondary characters who appear in the comics alongside Josie, Val, and Melody are only briefly introduced and serve little function to the plot. There’s no character development and little connection to the source material.
Another big issue is that this movie can’t seem to figure out who its audience is. Anyone old enough to actually know who Josie and the Pussycats are would likely find this incarnation vapid and annoying. I mean, Tara Reid pretty much spends the entire film braless and generally acts very Tara Reid-y. Most of the jokes are stupid and the characters are annoying. I just don’t see people like my parents, who are the right age to have grown up reading Archie comics when they were first published, enjoying this movie at all.
On the other hand, there is a thin layer of intelligence throughout that would go completely over the heads of the tweens and teens this was marketed to. The entire plot posits that the government has been implanting subliminal messaging into popular music to bolster the economy, sending teens out to purchase the latest new trends. I doubt they’d understand the irony of this, or the rampant product placement throughout the film (The movie actually received no payment from any of the brands shown on screen, which they probably regret given how little this made at the box office).
To be fair, Josie and the Pussycats is not the worst movie I’ve seen. It’s not even the worst comic book adaptation I’ve seen. It’s just not particularly good, despite being surprisingly clever. On the upside: the music is very catchy.
This film absolutely bombed when it was first released. This is not surprising, Josie and the Pussycats does not seem to know who its audience is. The subject matter is actually quite clever, but would have sailed over many of the teeny bopping heads that Josie was marketed towards.
The plot of Josie and the Pussycats, based on the eighties animated show, involves a small town band of three girls, Josie (Rachel Leigh Cook), Melody (Tara Reid) and Valerie (Rosario Dawson) being discovered by a visiting record producer, Wyatt Frame (Alan Cumming) and set on the path to superstardom. Wyatt is looking for a new band to sell after his last boy band died in a mysterious plane crash. Turns out Wyatt and his boss (Parker Posey) are putting subliminal messages into their music and using it to sell products. Josie’s band are the next band they plan to manipulate. When they begin to suspect something, Wyatt and his bosses use the band’s jealousy over Josie’s newfound popularity to try and tear them apart. Can Josie save her friends and put a stop to her producer’s nefarious plot?
This film is a lot more intelligent than I gave it credit for. I really liked the idea of having subliminal messages hidden in popular music. I have often wondered how some things become popular and this is an interesting take on it. If there were hidden messages in my music telling people to love the Kardashians, I would totally believe it. How else does that awful family stay relevant?
Outside of the above average plot, there is not much else here. Rachel Leigh Cook is cute as Josie, but is not given much to do, as is the case with her bandmates Tara Reid and Rosario Dawson. Although, according to the credits, they performed much of their songs from the film, so that is pretty impressive. Dawson has become one of my favourite actresses working today so I am glad Josie’s failure did not impact her career too much.
My favourite part of this film was the boy band featured during the opening. They have managed to bring together a who’s who of nineties supporting teen actors. Seth Green, Breckin Meyer and Donald Faison make up the boy band that suddenly find themselves expendable by their employers. Their small role is one of the film’s highlights, particularly their tongue in cheek music video to the song ‘Backdoor Lover’. It is jokes like this that are wasted on this film’s target audience, many of whom would not have appreciated something like this.
I enjoyed this film a lot more than I thought I would. An intelligent premise is wasted on a target market unlikely to appreciate it and outside of Alan Cumming and Parker Posey, the rest of the cast feel like they are phoning it in.