Rated PG-13 - Running Time: 1:38 - Released 4/11/01

Those of us who watch TV's Cartoon Network (or, more specifically, whose kids do) have been forced to come to grips with the abysmal quality of formerly loved "classic" cartoons like Scooby-Doo, Speed Racer, and The Perils of Penelope Pitstop. One such series was 1970's Archies spinoff Josie And The Pussycats, a show about an all-girl rock band that occasionally has to solve a crime, or defeat a villain, or travel into outer space, or...something. Long before the Bangles, the Go-Go's, the Spice Girls or the Cramps, Josie and her pals strummed their guitars sexily and belted out bubble-gum tunes in our living rooms wearing leopard print bodysuits and cute little kitty ears. Those were the days.

And so it is inevitable that this traditional cartoon fave would be put through the Hollywood nostalgia mill, forcing decades-old ideas to conform to modern-day standards and allowing opportunistic producers to capitalize on the cartoons-to-movies trend. Written and directed by Harry Elfont and Deborah Kaplan (The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas), Pussycats is about as vapid as its cartoon inspiration, but it attempts to rise to something higher, offering some meager satire of current trends in music, merchandising, and teen fashion.

Although guitarist/vocalist Josie McCoy (Rachael Leigh Cook) and her two friends, bassist Valerie Brown (Rosario Dawson) and drummer Melody Valentine (Tara Reid), have the talent and dedication to make it in the music business, so far they have not been discovered. Not taken seriously by their lazy manager, Alexander Cabot (Paulo Costanzo), nor his skunk-haired sister Alexandra (Missi Pyle), the Pussycats are about to lose hope when they meet British talent agent Wyatt Frame (Alan Cumming, currently appearing one auditorium over in Spy Kids), who is not only ready to sign them unheard, but instantly begins planning a stadium concert. Although Josie, Val, and Melody are surprised by his sudden interest, they're perfectly happy to have a record deal, and their first single skyrockets to #1 in one week.

What they don't know, however, is that Wyatt works for the villainous Mega Records CEO Fiona (Parker Posey), who heads up a huge corporate conspiracy to implant subliminal messages in pop music, causing the nation's teens to buy whatever products they suggest. To further their plot, Fiona and Wyatt have designed special pussycat headphones to distribute at the concert, so when the thousands of teenage fans wear them, they will be under the spell of Fiona's secret message.

Josie And The Pussycats, the cartoon, was never known for particularly intelligent plots or important social commentary, it was just another of the mindless Hanna-Barbera products we kids lapped up every Saturday morning. So in a way it would actually be against the original principles of the show for the movie to have a great deal of integrity.

Yeah, that's what we'll say.

The film is fluff, but it's good-natured fluff, and the Elfont-Kaplan script pokes a few jabs at the runaway trend of product placement in movies, with some logo or company name in the background (or foreground) of nearly every scene. It also makes fun of the glut of seemingly disposable teen groups by featuring an amusingly spoiled and pretentious musical foursome called Du Jour, whose part in the film is a key factor in the Pussycats' discovery of the truth. This film didn't need to be made, but here it is. The best praise I can offer is it could have been worse. ***½

Copyright 2001 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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