(Photograph by Everett Assortment)
Music motion pictures are having a second proper now. In 2018, Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga lit radio waves and theaters ablaze with the third remake of A Star is Born; that very same 12 months, Bohemian Rhapsody earned 4 Academy Awards; and final 12 months, Renée Zellweger took dwelling the Finest Actress Oscar for playing Judy Garland in a biopic. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is a robust contender for a couple of Oscars in a few weeks, we’re getting a film about Aretha Franklin later this 12 months, and dramas about Elvis Presley, Bob Marley, and Peggy Lee — amongst others — are all within the works.
However 20 years in the past immediately, earlier than the world was clamoring for biopics, musicals, and movies about musicians, a wild satire primarily based on a comic book ebook from the ’60s and cartoon sequence from the ’70s was launched in theaters, and it failed, each critically and commercially.
That movie was Josie and the Pussycats, and regardless of its 53% Tomatometer rating and its field workplace failures, it’s one which deserves to be celebrated.
So put in your cat ear headphones and stick a DuJour CD in your Discman, as a result of in honor of the twentieth anniversary of Josie and the Pussycats, we’re breaking down the explanation why it ought to be acknowledged as one of the iconic music movies of the twenty first century.
It’s a Time Capsule That Will get Higher with Age
Keep in mind a time earlier than digital music and streaming providers? A time whenever you needed to watch MTV to see your favourite artists? A time when AOL was one of many greatest manufacturers on this planet? That’s the time of Josie and the Pussycats.
If ever there was a film that screamed early-2000s, it’s this one. Boy bands, rampant consumerism, TRL, Breckin Meyer — you actually get all the things you may need out of a Y2K-era satire of popular culture, and regardless of being so quintessentially of its time, the movie solely will get higher with age.
For one factor, Josie and the Pussycats is aggressively overt with its product placement — even Mac and Me is tame by comparability — however in contrast to most different movies, its company promotion is extra world constructing than model endorsement. Just a few years in the past, writer-director Deborah Kaplan said, “We didn’t take a dime from any of these folks… They needed to be in on the joke and allow us to use their logos.” Which, wanting again, is hilarious, particularly whenever you now spy an advert for Nokia cellphones, a reference to MovieFone, or a wall of AOL logos.
The identical goes for seeing the pc display screen of a live-streamed Pussycats live performance, a line of followers ready to purchase the most well liked CD, or Total Request Live and its host Carson Daly, who on the time was the real-life boyfriend of Tara Reid, who performs Melody within the movie (isn’t that simply essentially the most late-’90s factor ever?).
As increasingly of those firms, characters, and cultural touchstones fall by the wayside, the satire of Josie and the Pussycats solely will get sharper.
The Document Business Satire Is Spot On
Everyone knows how most music movies work; there’s an artist or a band who does a small gig/has a success tune/sings Edith Piaf in a bar, they get observed by somebody essential, and shortly sufficient, as a consequence of their unimaginable expertise, they’re on the prime of the charts taking part in sold-out exhibits. However one main side of the music trade that not often will get any play is the antagonistic report labels who exploit artists’ skills.
In Josie and the Pussycats, MegaRecords govt Wyatt Body (performed by Alan Cumming) first stumbles throughout the struggling band when he almost hits them together with his automotive. When he notices that Josie (Rachael Leigh Cook) and the Pussycats (Rosario Dawson’s Valerie and Tara Reid’s Melody) have the look and sound of a success band, he makes them an irresistible provide, flies them from Riverdale to the large metropolis, nurtures them, and introduces them to the innocent world of music superstardom, resulting in a protracted and profitable partnership that advantages everybody.
Besides that’s not what occurs in any respect, as a result of Josie and the Pussycats isn’t only a easy, inspirational story about overcoming obstacles with expertise and perseverance, it’s a critique of the way in which the musical industrial advanced manufactures stars, makes use of them to advertise vogue/toys/merchandise/the navy/and so on., after which spits them again out after they’ve discovered the next band du jour.
MegaRecords CEO Fiona, performed by Parker Posey, goals to perform this by brainwashing the band’s followers by way of subliminal messages hidden of their recordings. What higher strategy to manipulate listeners into loving Matt Damon and sporting orange sweaters? After all, it’s additionally fairly useful in making Josie and the Pussycats an in a single day sensation or, you recognize, making an attempt to interrupt them up so Josie can fly solo and turn into a pop idol whose music will, in flip, be used to create a technology of senseless customers.
Everyone knows how vile “the trade” may be, and whereas Josie and the Pussycats is admittedly somewhat foolish and over-the-top, there’s quite a lot of reality hidden behind the surplus, and the report execs performed by Cumming and Posey aren’t so many shades darker than their real-life counterparts.
The Music Is Excellent
The one factor a music film has to have is killer music, and Josie and the Pussycats has that in spades.
With tracks written by 12-time Grammy winner Babyface, the late, nice, EGOT-nominated cinematic earworm maestro Adam Schlesinger, Jane Wiedlin of the Go-Go’s, and Adam Duritz of Counting Crows, simply to call a couple of, and produced by Babyface and Schlesinger with vocals carried out by Kay Hanley of Letters to Cleo, this movie and its soundtrack album are crammed with bangers.
Distinctly early-2000s bangers, certain, however bangers nonetheless.
From the primary energy chords and hits of the hi-hat on the soundtrack album’s opening tune, “3 Small Phrases,” the music bursts with a professionalism far past what you may anticipate. However the subsequent lyrics “I’m a punk rock promenade queen” shock you again into remembering that that is truly a tune from Josie and the Pussycats. This tune and “You’re a Star” evoke pop punk princess Avril Lavigne a full 12 months earlier than her first album and subsequent stardom, and the facility chord-laden “Shapeshifter” would match nice on any Good Charlotte album.
On the similar time, this movie is completely located within the zenith of the Backstreet Boys/NSYNC period, and the movie’s ill-fated boy band, DuJour, hits all those self same notes simply as exhausting in “DuJour Across the World” and “Backdoor Lover,” with the latter being deployed within the movie with an over-the-top but additionally fully spot-on music video.
Regardless of being a send-up of the music trade, the songs are so extremely earnest and the musicianship is so properly accomplished that the music stands on it personal.
Individuals observed, too. Regardless of the movie’s disappointing field workplace run, the soundtrack album went licensed Gold and hit the High 20 on the U.S. Billboard chart. Within the subsequent years, there have been a number of vinyl re-releases of the soundtrack, together with one which dropped behind a 2017 present that had extra followers than have been on the movie’s climactic live performance, proving individuals are nonetheless clamoring for Pussycats songs 20 years later.
When you ask me, “Pretend to be Nice” ranks proper up there with one of the best film songs from the previous 20 years, and that features “Lose Your self,” “Let It Go,” and “Shallow.”
It Paved the Means for the “Archie-Verse”
(Photograph by Artwork Streiber/The CW)
In 2001, no one actually cared what drama was occurring in Riverdale or which witches have been dwelling in Greendale, however now the Archie Comics prolonged universe, because it have been, is a cultural phenomenon. And it turned one as a result of these exhibits observe a template set by Josie and the Pussycats.
With its PG-13 content material and tongue-in-cheek method to the unique content material, this movie is a stark departure from the family-friendly Melissa Joan Hart-led Sabrina the Teenage Witch sitcom and the Scooby-Doo knockoff cartoon sequence. Josie and the Pussycats as a substitute lives in a world of its personal, a hyper-realized pastiche of popular culture, comedian ebook visuals, satire, throwback allusions, and darker-than-expected drama that in some way works.
Although it attracts inspiration from the previous comedian ebook sequence of the identical title, it has been dragged into the twenty first century and thrust right into a dramatic new modern world full with all the issues that tweens, teenagers, and younger folks face lately.
Now, you’ll discover a related sensibility in present hit Archie Comics exhibits like Riverdale and Chilling Adventures of Sabrina that function religious and narrative successors to Josie and the Pussycats. With Riverdale renewed for no less than two extra seasons and one other spin-off in growth, Archie Comics received’t be going anyway any time quickly, and Josie and the Pussycats was the catalyst for all of it.
Josie and the Pussycats was launched in theaters on April 11, 2001.