Seeing Double Review
Created by Simon Fuller following his dismissal as the manager of the Spice Girls, S Club 7 (for Simon's Club 7) released their debut single in 1999, which was followed by their eponymous debut album that same year and three further releases in the form of 7 (2000), Sunshine (2001) and Seeing Double (2002), the last of which preempted this, their 2003 feature release. Following Paul Cattermole leaving the group in 2002, S Club 7 became S Club, Jo O'Meara released a solo single and despite statements from the band denying a split, it was all over by April 2003, announced from the stage at a concert in London, followed up by the release of the Say Goodbye single.
It was testament to the waning success of the group that there were no tearful teenage girls, no explosive feuds, not even a telephone line offering support and counseling - S Club simply faded away. Not even a caution for the boys regarding their smoking of cannabis in Covent Garden could get them within sniffing distance of credibility, which was not helped by the remaining members of the band walking off BBC's Liquid News after being questioned about money following rumours about their reputed lack of earnings.
What's left of them? A clutch of albums including a Best Of, a slim chance of solo success and the DVD of this, Seeing Double, which offered them the chance of motion picture success. Was it to be? Given the track record of pop stars in films, what would history suggest?
Fresh from their desperate and futile attempts to make it big in Miami 7, LA 7 and Hollywood 7, S Club have finally hit the big time but following a successful world tour, the six members of the band want nothing more than to get back to England for some much needed R&R, despite the protests from their manager, Alistair (Adams). However, far from the hotel in which they are staying, in an underground laboratory within the castle at Eagle Peak, evil scientist, Victor (Gant), has created a clone of each of the six members of the band. He dispatches his karate babe to abduct Alistair and leaves S Club penniless, alone and cut off from the world in their hotel. Even as the band protest to the authorities that they are the real S Club, their clones are in California performing sell-out concerts and when the real S Club are jailed, they hatch a plan to escape, make their way to the US and publicly shame their doubles. But when all they wanted was a rest, are the clones worth keeping around...
Acting in something that is souffle-light is not an entirely new concept to S Club, having been the stars of Miami 7, LA 7 and Hollywood 7, broadcast in 1999, 2000 and 2001, respectively. Anyone who occasionally watched CBBC (the post-school Children's BBC slot) over the past four years or so could not have helped but seen at least one episode of these series. Looked at apart from S Club 7 Go Wild, which saw the group travel the world investigating animals in their natural habitat, these three series were virtual remakes of The Monkees television series but which featured S Club trying to make it in the titular cities whilst working in dead-end jobs to pay the rent and only being held back by meddling managers, scheming bosses and their own comic ineptitude. Unfortunately, Seeing Double is no Head, the 1968 phreak-out that saw The Monkees, Bert Schneider, Bob Rafelson and Jack Nicholson spin Vietnam, beautiful music (The Dolphin Song is a classic of late-60's psychedelia) and solarised photography into a messy and unique swan song. Then again, whilst Seeing Double is no classic, it is somewhat better than Spice World, which can also be blamed on Simon Fuller.
In some respects, Seeing Double isn't such a bad film at all with the best point in the film being the performances of the band, particularly Jo, Bradley and Hannah, who give the film a breezy and relaxed air. That they manage to bring a little life to the film should not be a surprise as this group, with the addition of Paul Cattermole, have gone through three series to get their playing off one another into shape. These three really bring the film together and although some of the humour is often incredibly simplistic, such as Hannah's puppet show put on to distract two guard dogs, it does kind of work throughout, particularly in the scenes in which the group indulge in a communal shower and when Jon, Hannah and Rachel swap places with three of the clones. Sadly, the filming of Seeing Double coincided with Jo's back injury and, as a result, she takes herself out of much of the action - an action that goes unexplained.
Then again, the music is also a definite highlight with snatches of a large number of S Club songs being played throughout, notably the wonderful S Club Party and Never Had A Dream Come True. Best of all, though, is the performance of Don't Stop Moving in a Spanish prison cell, which is undoubtedly one of the true pop classics of this decade. This one song is so wonderful that it had this reviewer giggling like a schoolgirl throughout and if S Club are remembered for little else, Don't Stop Moving should ensure they last a little longer than their contemporaries in the public's consciousness.
Bad points? Well, most of the problems can be laid on Kim Fuller's involvement, being the brother of S Club's manager, Simon. Fuller's history of screen writing goes back to Not the Nine O'Clock News in 1979 and on the evidence of both Spice World and Seeing Double, he has gotten no better as the years passed. Whilst he ensures nothing really offends, very little impresses either and despite the latter half of the film being a funny and silly affair, the first half is a fairly dull forty minutes with little humour that really works. Where one would have expected Seeing Double to be a considerable advancement from their television shows, this first half most certainly is not but the film does pick up somewhat with the performance of Don't Stop Moving and their departure from Spain to LA.
Finally, yes, Rachel Stevens (FHM's Sexiest Woman Alive for the past three years or so) does feature rather a lot, even in the communal shower scenes and doesn't do a bad job but from the girls in the band, Hannah is undoubtedly the star with lead singer Jo following close behind. Tina, however, proves to be as much of a waste here as she was in the S Club television shows with a lack of presence, comic timing and, given her relative silence on the albums, singing ability. Of the boys, Jon is a bland member of the cast and band whereas Bradley, like Hannah and Jo, really deserves to have some success beyond the life of the band. However, where Jo ought to have some longevity as a solo artist, Hannah and Bradley seem destined to show off their understanding of comedy beyond Seeing Double.
It's not great but it is alright and after the first forty minutes or so, it does become, if not subversive, then a twisty little comedy for fans of the band. However, just when you might think it's getting a whole lot better, crumple-faced warbler Gareth Gates shows up at the end and, if you thought S Club couldn't act, wait'll you get a load of him. Why is he here? Blame Simon Fuller's involvement with Pop Idol, which, along with the wholly disturbing, paedophile-baiting S Club Juniors (now renamed S Club 8), forms the core of Fuller's 19 Management company. As much as you might dislike S Club, you may even hate them, they were distinctly better than what followed but it's a pity that this so-so movie is their parting shot - the giddy pop thrust of Don't Stop Moving should have seen them leave on a high.
Seeing Double is anamorphically presented in 1.85:1 and looks very good indeed despite a rather obvious cheapness to the whole production. As with the content of the feature, the look of Seeing Double is similar to that of LA 7, Miami 7 and Hollywood 7, being sunlit footage of the band in attractive surroundings, albeit ones that are seldom overpopulated due to the cost of employing extras. The Barcelona scenes, in particular, are quite beautifully lit with the director and cinematographer taking advantage of the natural light offered by the setting sun and the transfer supports these images flawlessly.
Seeing Double has been transferred with its original Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track intact and in many of the scenes, it really is as good as any other music title with the rear speakers being used to bring the audio track into the centre of the room but there are occasional and badly-handled steps between music and dialogue as the sound lurches from a central position to the front speakers without so much as a fade. Otherwise, what with this being a recent release, the soundtrack is clean without any noticeable noise or faults.
Befitting the type of movie this is, Columbia Tristar have included the types of bonus features most likely to appeal to the film's target audience with there being, therefore, no director's commentary or technically detailed behind-the-scenes making-of:
All About S Club (1.78:1 Anamorphic): This bonus feature simply offers a number of still screens of text listing facts about each member of the group, such as star sign, date of birth and life before the band.
Access All Areas: Following the successful answering of eight questions and a spot-the-difference over three quiz rounds, the viewer can access a Behind The Scenes (7m09s, 1.33:1 Non-Anamorphic, 2.0 Stereo), Our Favourite Movies (3x Pages of Text), More On Clones (Who would S Club clone?, 2x Pages of Text) and Our Movie Doubles (3x Pages of Text).
Photo Gallery: This offers a number of still images, grouped into Behind The Scenes (9x), Studio Shots (14x) and Movie Stills (13x), from which a smaller group can be selected and viewed.
S Messages (1.78:1 Anamorphic): Selecting this allows trivia to be highlighted off certain menus, offering such facts as the number of albums S Club have sold worldwide.
Interviews With The Band (1.33:1 Anamorphic, 2.0 Stereo): As per the title, this features interviews with each member of the band answering such incisive questions as, "Did you get on with the director?" and, "What's your favourite part of the film?" A number of the cast can have their interviews played in full - Jo, Rachel and Jon - and all the interviews are subtitled.
Interviews With The Cast and Crew (1.33:1 Anamorphic, 2.0 Stereo): This features interviews, which are also subtitled, with Nigel Dick, the producer Alan Barnette, co-producer John Steven Agoglia and executive producer Gayla Aspinall as well as biographies of Joseph Adams and David Gant, also featured in an interview, who play Alistair and Victor, respectively.
Theatrical Trailers: As well as the trailer for Seeing Double (1m01s, 1.85:1 Anamorphic, 5.1 Surround), this also includes trailers for Maid In Manhattan (2m19s, 1.85:1 Anamorphic, 5.1 Surround) and National Security (1m53s, 1.85:1 Anamorphic, 5.1 Surround).
Now comes the point at which I quantify all of the above with the statement that, as you may have guessed, I love S Club but to anyone who is not a fan, subtract absolutely all but one of the points from the score to the right. For those of you who are uninterested in S Club or who will despise them until your dying breath, there is absolutely nothing of any worth contained here, in fact you'll probably hate it. For fans, however, this, well, still isn't particularly good but it's entertaining enough in a thoroughly mindless way - Seeing Double is sparky and dull in equal measure and where Jo, Hannah and Bradley are quick and funny, Rachel, Tina and Jon are bland and unexciting but the music, again if you're a fan, is good throughout with good exposure for Don't Stop Moving and Never Had A Dream Come True.
Now, however, it's all over for S Club and barring a few court appearances, should some of them decide to sue 19 Management over lack of earnings, the challenge is on all of them to stand alone. Rachel is first out with a post-split solo record but, personally, I'm hoping Jo makes it - there's something about brassy Essex blondes that not even a few nights out in Basildon have made me think twice about - and despite hearing that she's more into Country & Western - and I'm thinking that's more likely to be the dreadful Shania Twain than Johnny Cash - she's worth a punt for future success.