Josie and the Pussycats Review

The Movie
After dumping his last chart topping band DuJour - literally - slimy manager Wyatt Frame (Alan Cumming) is on the lookout for a new act to flog to the kids. Fate lands him in the small town of Riverdale where a local band called the Pussycats are trying to make it big. Playing in the end lane of the bowling alley, however, probably isn't the best route to fame and fortune. Their "manager" Alexander Cabot (Paulo Costanzo) isn't much use, so when Wyatt sees them in the street and offers them a massive recording deal, how can they possibly turn it down? So now singer Josie McCoy (Rachael Leigh Cook), bassist Valerie Brown (Rosario Dawson) and ditzy drummer Melody Valentine (Tara Reid) are renamed to Josie and the Pussycats and are on their way to the big time. Best selling singles, sell out concerts, fame and fortune, and it's only been a week. But is everything as good as it seems? Are they just yet another overnight sensation, or is their a more sinister plot being cooked up by Wyatt and his maniacal boss Fiona (Parker Posey)? And will Alan M. (Gabriel Mann) ever tell Josie that he loves her?

A comedy about an all-girl pop group trying to make it big, which is actually an update of an old cartoon show, doesn't exactly sound likes it's going to have much going for it. So it's a pleasant surprise to report that as well as being a lot of fun, this is also actually a very funny satire on pop bands and American consumerism, much better than could have possibly been have expected. The movie takes big digs at such things as manufactured pop bands and consumers who will buy anything that they are told to. I've always had an annoyance with the amount of product placement in movies, and this one has a big go at that as well, by deliberately overflowing the film with corporate logos absolutely everywhere (the commentary assures us that they were not paid for any of this). Much like Mars Attacks! this movie did very poor box office in the States and probably for the same reasons; it pokes fun at Americans and they don't like that. Like Mars Attacks! it will probably do better in Europe (at the time of this review it had yet to be released theatrically in the UK).

Of course it's also based on an old cartoon of the same name, and to that it holds up pretty well. The characters are all there, with of course headstrong Josie, tough Val and dizzy Melody in the main roles. Rachael Leigh Cook, Rosario Dawson and Tara Reid all very good in their roles, and do a good job of recreating the old cartoon characters. Dawson is probably the most unusual choice of the three for a movie like this, as she had previously done mostly independent stuff like Kids, but transfers to light comedy well. The other "original" characters include Gabriel Mann as Josie's love interest Alan M., and Paulo Costanzo and Missi Pyle as brother and sister Alexander and Alexandra Cabot. The "new" characters are the villains Wyatt Frame (Alan Cumming) and Fiona (Parker Posey). Cumming plays the slimy manager so well that he pretty much steals the film, and Parker Posey's record boss is a suitably mad enough baddie to help the film along to its "Scooby Doo" style conclusion.

This is a bright, colourful and frothy piece of fun, which is also an amusing satire as well. Writer / directors Elfont and Kaplan have created an entertaining update to an old TV show, much like they did with their writing of A Very Brady Sequel. If you've ever wondered why pop bands appear on the scene with immediate hits and then disappear just as quickly, this is the film you need to see. Great fun.

The picture quality of this disc is first rate, though you wouldn't know this from the opening 5 minutes or so. The whole thing looks totally over-saturated and too bright. Listening to the commentary proves that they were messing around with the picture in post production, so it is a deliberate effect. Not long after is another scene (at Josie's house) which also looks over-bright. Again the commentary reveals that the scene was actually filmed at night and artificially brightened, hence the strange look. Elsewhere the image is exquisite, and the vibrant colours that fill the Pussycats' world look quite beautiful.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is obviously filled with a lot of loud rock music, and it all comes over clearly, as does the dialogue. Surround effects are a bit limited though, but when they are used - such as the trip into the CD player - they sound very good. All in all though, it's not quite as good as it could have been.

In addition to this we have a DTS soundtrack which adds something that the Dolby Digital track certainly lacks. Not only do we get the fuller sound that most DTS tracks provide, this one also appears to have more in the way of surround action. One scene in particular (where Melody walks from room to room gibbering) stands out with good use of sound placement moving between all five speakers. Given the musical nature of the soundtrack it is easy for dialogue to get drowned out, but in the case of this disc it sounds perfectly clear.

The disc also features a French Dolby Digital 5.1.

The disc features a number of extras, though the actual menus and presentation are a little disappointing. Only the main menu features music, the rest are silent and a bit uninspired. This is a funky, upbeat movie and the look of the DVD should have matched it. Nonetheless, the extras include:

The Backstage Pass is the "making of" featurette and runs for about 24 minutes. It features the obligatory interviews with cast and filmmakers, and goes into such things as the costumes, the look of the movie, and how much the girls had to learn to play (to look convincing). It's pretty much the usual promotional stuff, but it at least gives you the impression that everyone had a great time making the movie.

The commentary features directors Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfont and producer Marc Platt. This is a lively affair, and they have plenty of information to divulge. Some of these include the continuity problems of not shooting scenes in chronological order, and also to avoid using lyrics as dialogue, as it costs big money!

There are three deleted scenes, or rather one deleted and two extended. The best of these is a longer version of Fiona's entrance to the Pussycats' party. Disappointingly, these are all in non-anamorphic widescreen, are not separated out in the menu, and no commentary is available. In fact the main commentary on the disc indicates that there were many more deleted scenes, so it's a pity they are not here.

There are out-takes as well, but they are actually in the end credits of the movie itself.

There are three music videos, all from the fictional bands of the film. Josie and the Pussycats' Three Small Words video features footage largely taken from the movie. There are two from DuJour, firstly the DuJour around the world video and then the best of the bunch, which is DuJour's Backdoor Lover video, featuring some decidedly risqué lyrics. All are in non-anamorphic widescreen.

There are production notes which amount to five pages of information about the making of the movie. Cast and Filmmakers is the usual biographies and filmographies of the cast and crew. No mention of Alan Cumming's appearance in the sitcom The High Life, though...

Finally, the theatrical trailer is here, presented like every other extra, in non-anamorphic widescreen. There is also DVD-ROM content, but it doesn't seem to amount to any more than a way to start the movie and the extras from your PC.

Final Thoughts
I'll happily admit that my main reason for wanting to see this movie was that Rachael Leigh Cook was in it; I wasn't otherwise expecting it to be up to much. But it turned out to be a really funny and entertaining comedy that sends up the pop business and American consumerism as well. The disc is technically pretty good and there are a reasonable amount of extras, though the presentation could have been better. Definitely recommended.

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