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Josie and the Pussycats

review by Zach B.

Rated PG-13

Studio: Universal

Running Time: 99 minutes

Starring Rachael Leigh Cook, Tara Reid, Rosario Dawson, Alan Cumming, Gabriel Mann, Paulo Costanzo, Missi Pyle and Parker Posey

Written and Directed by Deborah Kaplan & Harry Elfont

Retail Price: $26.95

Features: Audio Commentary with Writers and Directors Deborah Kaplan & Harry Elfont and Producer Marc Platt, Backstage Pass featurette, Deleted Scenes, Josie and the Pussycats "3 Small Words" Music Video, Dujour "Backdoor Lover" Music Video, Dujour "Dujour Around The World" Music Video, Production Notes, Cast and Filmmakers, Theatrical Trailer. DVD-ROM: Weblinks, Screensavers, Newsletter

Specs: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English Dolby Digital 5.1, English DTS 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1, English Captions, Scenes (18 Scenes)

"Josie, Carson Daly tried to kill us tonight and I think it has something to do with our music!"


Heavily hyped and backed up with a giant ad campaign aimed at the teen audience, "Josie and the Pussycats" debuted during April 2001 and was a giant bomb commercially and critically. Finally! A movie hyped and jammed in the faces of teenage girls and it bombs! Maybe studios will finally get the message that the teen genre is finally dying (plenty of other teen aimed films bombed before this as we know) and just because you have hot stars, a rockin' soundtrack and a whole lot of advertising it doesn't mean it will succeed. I only pray this movie sets an example. While it failed at the box office, it also fails as a movie too.

Based on the Archie comic of the same name, "Josie and the Pussycats" follows Josie (Rachael Leigh Cook), Melody (Tara Reid) and Val (Rosario Dawson) as they are in a band and are struggling for success. However, when the teen pop sensation Dujour is missing after a freak plane accident of sorts, it's up to Wyatt (Alan Cumming) of MegaRecords to get a new act. He finds the Pussycats in Riverdale, signs them to a big contract and soon they're all like, mega famous! Soon, the true motives of Wyatt and his CEO boss Fiona (Parker Posey) are revealed: they're using music to put in subliminal advertisments (voiced by Mr. MovieFone) to teen audience. Like, OMG! Can The Pussycats save America's youth from evil corporate America?

The main problem with "Josie and the Pussycats" is its far-fetched story and how predictible things can be. Not that there is anything wrong with a far-fetched story since it is a fictional movie, but I mean, come on. Sure it is the vision and the idea, and that's fine, but I don't think it works so much. So many things within this flick are too ridiculous and the characters are way too naive. Though the characters do mock themselves and the plot at some points, it still doesn't work out correctly. The movie does go at a quick pace, but what I found annoying how once characters learn about some evil motives, they react to them, learn the truth to them and then wrap it really quickly. There's no time to really build any true tension, it's more "arngh I'm angry" and then it's all solved within a matter of minutes. There's so many moments too where we see how stupid the characters are. I won't reveal them here, but trust me, you'll see a lot of them. Some characters, like the Pussycats' mananger, I didn't see a real point to. Sure they are used and whatnot, but I mean, I didn't find them to advance the story (and the manager's partner is only in the movie because "she was in the comic book). Believe it or not, this movie has themes of being yourself, loyalty and remembering who you are, and it doesn't really preach about it. This movie also has many mistakes within it all, I don't know where to begin. But I will mention one that a lot will pick up on: Wyatt mentions that the "taping of TRL is in two hours" in a key scene. Wait, isn't "Total Request Live" LIVE ? And shouldn't these teenyboppers know that?

It's a real shame too that the script fails, because this really could have been a great satire. The whole opening scene with the faux boy band "Dujour" and the idea of subliminal advertising in music does show promise, but I think Kaplan and Elfont get really ahead of themselves and focus too much on other things. There's gold to be found in with the advertising thing, and why there is a good amount in the movie, their ideas about it, the way it is written and presented doesn't get the whole picture. I felt there could have been more focus on how easily teenagers are influenced and how they follow what's new, what's hot etc. but there isn't really much of that to be found here. I think that was the point they were trying to make, but they focus too much on the advertisers and subliminal messaging. There's some stupid subplots too just to give it more texture and feeling, but those are predictible and really feel tacked-on. Also, you'd think all the ads in this movie would pay for itself, but as we learn on the commentary featured on this DVD, they didn't get any money off that.

The acting in this movie is surprisingly good, let alone just a bit shallow. Dawson, Reid and Cook are all good Pussycats and you get the sense there is chemistry and they are friend. The always excellent and morphing Alan Cumming is fun as Wyatt, while Posey is a bit eccentric and kooky as Fiona. Not to mention the fun members of Dujour, which include Breckin Meyer and Seth Green.

Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfont wrote and directed this movie together, as they did on their first directing outing, 1998's "Can't Hardly Wait", that being another teen comedy. Of all the crop of teen movies out there, I enjoyed that one. Here though, their script is flawed, but they certainly do have a good directing style together that I liked. Overall, this movie does not add-up. Good portions weight it up, but other portions weigh it down. However, I will admit this movie wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. Sure, it's no "Get Over It", but in the end, it does a lot of things right and a lot of things wrong. Still, if you're the key demographic or have any interest in this movie, check it out.

Hands down, "Josie and the Pussycats" ranks as one of the best, if not the best transfer for a live action film I've seen on DVD during the year 2001 (thus far at least). I didn't notice any dirt or blemishes on the print, which really did surprise me and something I was really glad to see. The bright and flashy colors are very vibrant and snazzy, as those colors and fleshtones are well saturated. Hues look perfect while black levels are solid. Detail is also very good, and I didn't see any noise or shimmering. The movie also captures the TV and documentary style look well when it is supposed to, and doesn't go over the top with it. There is also some very slight edge enhancment as well. Overall, this is one impressive image that really surprised me.

"Josie and the Pussycats" features an English DTS 5.1 track as well as Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks in English and French. Overall, these tracks will give you a rockin' good time. I found surround use to be surprisingly limited as a lot of stuff was centered in the front sound stage. Still, there is a lot of good sounds in this movie, such as the whole jet sequence at the start of the movie, the finale and of course, the music. This movie has a load of songs that are mixed really nicely and are sure to please, it makes the movie come to life. .1 LFE extension is pretty good as well. Basically, I felt there could have been more surrounds and on the DTS track, in the last scene, there was some distortion (try to keep the volume low on that one to sort of block it out). Overall, these are fine tracks for the movie. I go with the DTS though, since it feels a bit more natural and complete. English subtitles are also on this release.

Despite the movie being a financial flop, Universal has put together a package worthy of a Collector's Edition, but alas, it is not labeled one. The Audio Commentary with Writers and Directors Deborah Kaplan & Harry Elfont and Producer Marc Platt is pretty good. There are no real gaps and they do offer some interesting information, but I sort of felt they were kind of nervous. Platt's comments are often contradicted by Kaplan and Elfont, and actually makes me wonder if Platt was really on the set during production. Still, you can see from this track they really did have a good time making the movie. They tell background stories, how things went, what days were like and offer a good amount of praise. This is a pretty solid track as far as I'm concerned, but some of the comments are a bit obvious.

The Backstage Pass featurette features clips from the movie, clips from filming with the "Josie Cam" and interviews. Interviews with Reid, Cumming, Cook, Dawson, Parker Posey are featured, as well interviews with Elfont and Kaplan. This featurette is fun, but strictly promotional. They talk about music, the story and their own rock experiences, among other things. It lasts twenty-four minutes.

There are three Deleted Scenes, two of which I found to sort of be extended and alternative ones. The scenes are in non-anamorphic widescreen and two channel sound. These scenes are actually pretty entertaining, and while there is no optional commentary as why they were cut, I think these could have it back into the movie.

A slew of Music Videos are included from the movie's bands. You have the catchy "3 Small Words" video from Josie and the Pussycats, "Backdoor Lover" from Dujour and "Dujour Around The World", obviously also from Dujour. They're pretty fun to watch, actually.

Rounding the disc out are some Production Notes, Cast And Filmmakers section with their bios and filmographies, some Universal Reccommendations and the Theatrical Trailer in non-anamorphic widescreen and two channel sound. On the DVD-ROM front, you have your usual Universal features, that include their DVD newsletter, weblinks and other stuff.

While it's not the greatest teen movie ever and while it is disappointing in numerous areas, this movie could have been a lot worse and I was surprised that it wasn't too bad. Universal has put together a fine package for the movie too, complete with an amazing transfer that stunned me. "Josie and the Pussycats" fans will want to add this to their collection, and if you're interested in the movie, check it out.

(3/5 - NOT included in final score)




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