Josie and the Pussycats (2001).
The classic 1970s cartoon gets a turn-of-the-century update from Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfont, and you know what? It’s not half bad. However, most of the show’s original mystery solving premise gets jettisoned in favor of a three-fun-chicks-hit-the-big-time storyline. While it’s simply a matter of trading in one cliché for another, it’s a trade that lets the filmmakers indulge in a little social commentary along with their fun.
The Pussycats — Josie (Rachel Leigh Cook), Val (Rosario Dawson) and Melody (Tara Reid) — are just another spunky little band trying to make a go of it in Riverdale until they get found by an unscrupulous manager (Alan Cumming) and a megalomaniac music mogul (Parker Posey). The two execs are trying to control the youth of America by planting subliminal consumer messages in pop songs and after they eliminate their insubordinate boy band Dujour, they need a new front. So they scoop up the girls and whisk them away to the Big City along with their pals — skunk-haired Alexandra (Missi Pyle), her clotheshorse brother Alexander (Paolo Costanzo) and Josie’s sensitive singer-songwriter crush Alan M. (Gabriel Mann). There are ups and downs, trials and tribulations, plenty of products placement spoofs and a terrific cameo scene with Carson Daly and Aries Spears. Finally, good conquers evil and Josie gets her boy.
The script hits all the usual notes you’ve come to expect in a light road-to-stardom flick, but “Josie and the Pussycats” mixes them with a strong message about thinking independently and not giving in to our consumer culture. This is entertainment aimed squarely at tweens, so both the dramatic conflicts and social commentary are painted in pretty broad strokes. But it’s a message that’s important for youngsters to hear, and it’s a damn sight more rewarding that anything like “Hannah Montana” or “Big Time Rush.”
The film was released nearly a decade ago, which is an eternity in the pop culture universe. That means a lot of its parodies of specific personalities and products (and there are plenty) may fly over the heads of today’s tween viewers. But let your kids see it anyway. Not only does it have a good message, but they just might have some fun with it too.
“Whatcha sayin’, man? That a brother can’t be Carson Daly?”
Cook, Dawson and Reid learned to play their own instruments for the soundtrack, although Cook’s vocals are dubbed by Kay Hanley, the lead singer of Letters to Cleo.
“Spice World” (1997) and “Beyond the Valley of the Dolls” (1970).
Take a Look:
The video for “Three Small Words.” Just look at all that fresh-faced energy:
Dujour sings “Back Door Lover” (presented by Target):