For those faithful readers, I bet many of you are wondering whose birthday it is today that would have me writing about Josie and the Pussycats. Surprise, no one’s birthday is today. Tomorrow, however, is Rosario Dawson’s birthday so this addition to the vault gives you a whole day to plan exactly how to wish her a happy one!
Josie McCoy (Rachael Leigh Cook), Valerie Brown (Rosario Dawson) and Melody Valentine (Tara Reid) are the struggling members of the rock group, the Pussycats. The three dream of hitting it big and leaving the little town of Riverdale, but they barely make any scratch from their jobs and their gigs at the local bowling alley. That is until MegaRecords executive, Wyatt Frame (Alan Cumming), literally lands in town and signs the girls without even hearing them hum a bar. Their overnight stardom seems too good to Josie, Val and Mel, and with good reason; the shady Wyatt and his crazed boss Fiona (Parker Posey) are spiking the music with subliminal messages, tampering with the tender minds of the youths of America!
Why would you want to watch Josie and the Pussycats? As Wyatt puts it, “would you be more interested in a band called simply the Pussycats, or are you more likely to buy a CD or read a comic or watch a cartoon or go and see a movie about a trio of luscious ladies called Josie and the Pussycats?” Stop, he had me at a trio of luscious ladies. Sure, a ton of movies feature a cadre of sexy gals bouncing and bopping around, so what makes Josie and the Pussycats different? The story, written and directed by Harry Elfont and Deborah Kaplan, is a riotous send up of the teen pop sensation that took us into the new millennium. The two use TONS of blatant commercialism as a running gag to reinforce the antagonists’ subliminal advertising agenda. In the opening sequence, boy band sensation Du Jour, portrayed by Donald Faison, Seth Green, Alexander Martin, and Breckin Meyer, arrive on the tarmac, gyrate and lip sync their latest hit, and board a Target-sponsored jet with walls bedazzled with a myriad of products. This announces exactly what kind of silly, cinematic romp lies ahead.
After the boys of Du Jour have gone, Josie and Pussycats becomes all about Josie and somewhat about the Pussycats as Wyatt works to dislodge the BFFs trust in one another. Cumming plays Wyatt as a total ass and it’s delightful. I almost always love Parker Posey’s work, and the way she struts around in the ridiculous outfits and commands the room adds Fiona as yet another memorable character in Posey’s feathered collar. The big reveal of Wyatt and Fiona’s secrets just make you love these two actors even more.
The ethereal plot doesn’t require Oscar-worthy performances; the film does feature two separate montages and a number of musical numbers after all, but Cook, Dawson, and Reid nail that BFF bond (maybe they connected during band camp). Dawson and Cook are given more of the ‘heavier’ lifting, and they portray the stresses of overnight success commendably. Reid captures the wide-eyed innocence of Melody, offering some of the more adorably funny and memorable moments. To add authenticity to its satirical nature, Eugene Levy, Babyface Edmonds, and Carson Daly among others pop in for amusing cameos.
When I knocked the dust off of my Josie and the Pussycats DVD (yes, I own this), I worried it wouldn’t hold up. I can now say that it has actually improved with age. Sure, the story isn’t rocket science and its resolution requires almost no heavy lifting, but looking back over a decade to the era it ridiculed serves to remind us just how much sillier things were.