tek's rating:

Josie and the Pussycats (PG-13)
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Caution: potential spoilers.

So, this came out in 2001. I saw it on TV at some point, surely in the early 2000s. And I liked it. After that, I wanted to get it on DVD, but usually if I ever saw it for sale anywhere, it was an edited "family-friendly" version. And I didn't want that. But eventually (in 2018) I got an unedited DVD, though it's hard for me to imagine how they would have edited anything out. I almost want to get the edited version just to see how that actually works. Because... there's nothing really overtly objectionable in the unedited version. Maybe a few things that would probably go over kids' heads, but even those things aren't a big deal. Anyway, whatever. Um... the movie was considered a bomb, both financially and critically, but I really don't understand that. I definitely think it's really funny and cool. And it had a great soundtrack, which I bought... probably soon after the first time I saw the movie, or maybe even before I saw it. (The main character's singing voice was done by Kay Hanley of the band Letters to Cleo.) And I should mention that I thought I would put my review under "comedy," but instead I ended up going with "comic book adaptations." Of course it's based on a comic book (which originated in 1963), but I never read it, and I always thought of it more as being based on a cartoon (which originated in 1970), which I never watched. Both those things were before my time, but I was vaguely more familiar with the fact that the cartoon even existed.

Anyway, the movie begins with a boy band called Du Jour, who are incredibly popular. (The members of the band are played by Seth Green, Donald Faison, Breckin Meyer, and some other guy.) There's an executive from their record label, MegaRecords, named Wyatt Frame (Alan Cumming), who has to deal with their petty complaints. But when they ask about a mysterious track they'd discovered beneath their music, he and the pilot of the plane they're on bail out, and let the band crash (and presumably die). Wyatt, now in the town of Riverdale, has to find a new band to sign to the label to replace them.

Meanwhile, there's a struggling band in Riverdale called the Pussycats, which includes Josie McCoy (Rachael Leigh Cook), Valerie Brown (Rosario Dawson), and Melody Valentine (Tara Reid). And Josie likes a guy named Alan M, though he seems to just think of her as a friend. And the band's manager is a guy named Alexander Cabot, whose sister, Alexandra (Missi Pyle), is constantly tagging along (and she doesn't seem to like the band). And... before long, Wyatt discovers the Pussycats and signs them to MegaRecords, without even hearing them, because he's desperate. The head of the label, Fiona (Parker Posey), could well fire him if he doesn't immediately find a replacement for Du Jour. (Fiona reminded me slightly of Minerva Mayflower from Hudson Hawk.) Josie and Valerie are a bit suspicious about how fast things happen for the band, but they ignore their suspicions, at first. But eventually it turns out that MegaRecords has been inserting subliminal advertising into popular music for decades, and getting rid of musical artists whenever they get close to learning the truth. And the subliminal messages can be used for more than just advertising; at one point, it's used to turn Josie against her friends. But of course she eventually realizes the truth, so they'll have to try to thwart the evil machinations of Fiona and Wyatt.

Anyway, I thought the movie was funny and clever, albeit it rather redonkulous. It's just that the redonkulousness is all obviously intentional. And of course the music is great. And there are fun cameos from Serena Altschul and Carson Daly and Eugene Levy, as themselves. Also, soon after meeting them, Wyatt mistakenly called the Pussycats the "Pussyhats," which I found terribly amusing watching it in an era where pussyhats are actually a thing. (This movie was so ahead of its time.) Also, the cat ear headphones that MegaRecords makes reminded me a bit of similar headphones that were made years later in real life (presumably without a subliminal component). And aside from all that, the movie occasionally leans on the "fourth wall," which is something I always find fun. And... I don't know what else to say. I guess I can understand how a movie like this would fail to be a mainstream success, but that doesn't mean it's not a good movie. I certainly don't think there's anything wrong with the writing or acting or really any aspect of it. It's not a great movie, but I guess its charms are perhaps somewhat niche. Maybe you could call it a "cult film," though that might even be giving it a bit too much credit. It's just sort of... stealth good.

comic book movies