Who better to save the world from scheming corporate slimeballs than three suburban
girls with spunk smarts--sort of--and catchy choruses to spare? Singer and guitar-slinger
Josie (Rachael Leigh Cook) sets the agenda. Melody (Tara Reid) sweet but slowwitted
bangs the drums. Bassist Val (Rosario Dawson) always watching out for her friends
knows when something's rotten in sleepy Riverdale. Their dream to make it to the
top of the charts becomes a reality when creepy record manager Wyatt Frame (Alan
Cumming) offers the garage band a contract - without hearing a single note. See
Frame's in hot water. He's missing his boy band. Seems an airplane carrying the
four members of DuJour - of "Backdoor Lover" fame - fell off the radar whereabouts
still unknown. Before you can say boxed-set retrospective Frame whisks the re-christened
Josie and the Pussycats to the big city to meet MegaRecords CEO Fiona (Parker
Posey) - just Fiona - and to record a No. 1 album. One week later Josie and the
Pussycats rule. Only the pressures of fame threaten to tear apart these lifelong
friends. And just why are Frame and Fiona planting subliminal messages on such
Josie and the Pussycats songs as "Pretend to be Nice" and "Small Words"? Could
it be that they want to brainwash the youth of America into buying more than just
the singles CD and merchandizing? Will the Pussycats save the day? Of course:
all things must end in a catfight.
Does acting really matter when it comes to such a glossy but exuberant display
of teen spirit? Not really but these feline friends certainly try hard. They
storm their way through the Monkees-style music-fueled montages looking and acting
very much like today's aspiring pop divas. An enigmatic talent used to ill-effect
in such recent disasters as Get Carter Antitrust and Blow Dry
the charming Cook imbues Josie with wisdom beyond her years even if it takes
Josie a while to figure out what's going down. Playing a prototypical blonde bimbo
Reid delivers her dopey asides with breathy giddiness and sincerity. "If I could
go back in time I would want to meet Snoopy " Reid gushes in one of her more
enlightened moments. Of the three Dawson has the least to do. She's tougher than
leather but that's about it. The three do find themselves outmatched by Cumming
and Posey who make a deliciously dastardly duo. Cumming is becoming an old pro
at this having recently menaced Antonio Banderas and family in Spy Kids.
There are some fun cameos including Eugene Levy as himself hosting a hysterical
promotional film about subliminal messages. Yet there's something creepy about
watching MTV personality Carson Daly chase real-life love Tara Reid with a baseball
That Josie and the Pussycats takes itself somewhat seriously as a screed
against rampant consumerism seems both ironic and bewildering. Writers and directors
Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfont - of Can't Hardly Wait fame for what that's
worth - rally against corporate America's constant and often overpowering crusade
to persuade teens to buy their products. Yet every scene in the film - every scene!
- features a familiar brand of soft drink shoes or clothes. This is not a film:
it's a shallow and insulting exercise in product placement. You can't see the
message for the ads. Besides Josie and the Pussycats rarely reaches the
inspired heights of its opening. Otherwise Kaplan and Elfont rely on yawn-inducing
MTV-style theatrics tired pop cultural references and terribly self-conscious
in-jokes about the comic book to keep these cats on the prowl.
By Noah Davis & Kit Bowen
Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan are at it again in Rush Hour 2. Hear what Hollywood.com's Noah Davis and Kit Bowen have to say about the movie, Chan and what their favorite martial arts movies are.
Hollywood.com: As sequels go, was Rush Hour 2 as good as the original?
Kit Bowen: Not really. I think the surprise chemistry between Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan in the first one was something fresh. In this film, it seemed a little stale. The same jokes over and over. And Chan didn't do as much fighting in the sequel, which was somewhat disappointing. Maybe the guy needs a break.
Noah Davis: As red-blooded Americans, we crave more action in a sequel than in the original. That's why there were more dinosaurs in The Lost World: Jurassic Park than in the original, and more in Jurassic Park III than The Lost World. And what's the point of bringing in high-flying newcomer Zhang Ziyi (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) if she isn't going to fight Chan. Though the movie was OK, it certainly was disappointing when contrasted to the first.
Hollywood.com: Jackie Chan keeps playing the same role over and over again. Is it time for him to move on?
Noah Davis: Chan is starting to slow down. But Jackie Chan slower than usual is still one of the four or five most exciting physical performers the movies have ever seen. There are reasons why he should start to move beyond cop roles, besides the clichés of cop movies and the lousiness of his role here (the sight of Chan as the smiling, slightly bewildered foreigner is getting old). There have to be other sorts of comedy that would be a good fit for somebody as charming as Chan. His best moments in Rush Hour and Rush Hour 2 are the modest, unassuming ones. When he steps out of a bus, somersaults gently across the roof of a taxi and slides into the open passenger window, it gives you a little lift. It's the same feeling I get watching someone like Fred Astaire cock his top hat and you think it's the most graceful thing you've ever seen.
Kit Bowen: I don't think I necessarily agree with my young and longwinded friend here about comparing Chan to Fred Astaire, but certainly Chan has charm. He just seemed a bit tired in this movie. Maybe he wants to branch out and combine his talents. Hollywood sure thinks he's hot. His name has been linked to about 100 projects in the last few months.
Hollywood.com: What do think Chan has done for the marital arts formula?
Kit Bowen: He's certainly brought it front and center in the U.S. theaters. Not since Bruce Lee has martial arts been so popular. But unlike those cheesy, badly dubbed Lee movies, Chan brings that Harrison Ford quality to his action heroes. He gets hurt and makes you laugh. And now there's newcomer Jet Li. We've got to get these two together.
Noah Davis: Given his longevity, it's easy to forget how utterly revolutionary his work is. Not only because the now-40ish Chan routinely performs film stunts that nobody else would dare to, but because he was the first Asian movie star to elevate kung-fu filmmaking beyond trite chop-socky fare. Chan uses simple ingenuity: ladders, skateboards and other random household objects are his stock in trade. But Chan's true gift is his regular-guy personality. Bruce Lee was the inarguable hero in every frame of his tragically brief career, but in Chan's best work he's a great antihero: a wisecracking victim of circumstance who, like Buster Keaton, always stumbles across a new way to get out of each predicament.
Hollywood.com: There's been a rash of popular martial arts movie hitting the mainstream. But what's your favorite Jackie Chan film of all time?
Kit Bowen: Chan is what got me watching these movies, since I've never been a huge fan of martial arts movies. I didn't want to, but someone dragged me to see Rush Hour. And I thought the stuff he did in it was amazing. Truly. But my favorite martial arts movie now is Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. It goes beyond the moves. And it's the women who get to kick ass.
Noah Davis: Honestly, Kit. Now everyone will know you don't know the difference between chop suey and chop-socky. Crouching Tiger, with it's surreal (and aided-by-fishing-line) stunts, can't hold a candle to Jackie's work. Jackie has made close to 90 movies, and while I haven't seen them all, I've seen many. I guess I'd say ... Cannonball Run. No, not really. His finest work is probably in 1985's Police Story, and the Shantytown stakeout scene is arguably the greatest fight sequence he's ever done.
Kit Bowen: OK, well, we've lost Noah now.