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the Video Vault

From the Vault: ‘Josie and the Pussycats’

Josie and the Pussycats hit the big screen with a thud in 2001 and quickly sank without a trace. This wasn’t a surprise, since those involved made the courageous — and ultimately questionable — decision to make a movie that mocked the very people most likely to see it, specifically shallow and easily programmed teenyboppers. Still, in the heart of Movie Ink and some diehard fans, Josie and the Pussycats stands as one of the best, most pointed satires of pop culture of the past 15 years.

Rachel Leigh Cook, Rosario Dawson, and Tara Reid star as Josey and her bandmates Valerie and Melody, respectively, an all-girl trio trying to break into the bigtime by playing bowling alley gigs in small town Riverdale. They get their chance when flavor-of-the-month boy band Du Jour (Seth Green, Brecken Meyer, Donald Faison, and Alex Martin) meets an untimely end just as their hit single “Backdoor Lover” is topping the charts. Record executive Wyatt Frame (Alan Cumming) and trendy mogul Fiona (Parker Posey) subsequently sign the Pussycats to an outlandish contract in order to have a focal point for a nefarious scheme. Wackiness ensues.

And it is fairly inspired wackiness, sending up everything from marketing (“Gatorade is the new Snapple!” and “orange is the new pink!” are among the slogans tossed around), consumerism, the transient tastes of the young, music as product, the media (Carson Daly makes a cameo appearance as an evil version of himself), and movies based on TV shows, comics, video games, et cetera. (“I’m here because I was in the comic book” announces one character.) In an ongoing sight gag, almost every scene features an unconvincing form of product placement, and even Mr. Moviefone is savaged.

No surprise that it alienated most of its viewers, as well as many a clueless critic, with its fearless indictment of trend pimps. The real tragedy is that a decade later, in the age of American Idol and an even bigger media blitz, Josie is more relevant than ever.

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About Gary Dowell

Professional film critic, journalist, Byronic hero.

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