Josie and the Pussycats

on April 11, 2001 by Michael Tunison
   As "Brady Bunch Movie"-style self-parodies go, "Josie and the Pussycats" doesn't exactly rock. While it hits a few comic high notes when ace supporting players Alan Cumming and Parker Posey are in the spotlight, this big-screen version of the Archie comic book about an all-female bubblegum band is generally too busy blasting out a barrage of hip MTV-culture references to work up much enthusiasm for its generic heroines and their tongue-in-cheek ride to the top of the charts.

   The wink-wink, nudge-nudge storyline follows singer-guitarist Josie ("She's All That's" Rachael Leigh Cook), bassist Valerie (Rosario Dawson from "Kids") and drummer Melody ("American Pie's" Tara Reid) as their feline-accessorized act goes from performing at the bowling alley in small-town Riverdale to billboard-splashed superstardom thanks to the help of powerful music manager Wyatt (Cumming). But as their wildest dreams come true literally overnight, even the painfully naïve Pussycats begin to realize Wyatt and the grandiose CEO of their record label (Posey) may have something more nefarious in mind for their music than just selling CDs.

   The unfortunate fact is these particular Pussycats need all the corporate backing they can get. With the exception of some effective dizzy-blonde gags from Reid, Josie and her bandmates are so bland that a brief but memorable send-up of a posturing Backstreet Boys-type male vocal quartet actually overshadows them. Happily, the movie never goes very long without returning to Cumming ("Spy Kids") and/or Posey ("Best in Show") to liven things up with the amusingly over-the-top antagonists. Co-writers/directors Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfont (who also co-wrote "A Very Brady Sequel") attempt to spin all this into a knowing satire on the entertainment biz's efforts to manipulate trend-following teens, but that message only resonates so much in a movie that panders to the youth audience as shamelessly as this one. Starring Rachael Leigh Cook, Tara Reid, Rosario Dawson, Parker Posey and Alan Cumming. Directed and written by Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfont. Produced by Marc Platt, Tracey Edmunds, Chuck Grimes and Tony DeRosa-Grund. A Universal release. Rated PG-13 for sensuality and some language. Running time: 98 min

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