JOSIE AND THE PUSSYCATS
The Josie and the Pussycats film has been made by directing/writing team Harry Elfont and Deborah Kaplan who had previously worked on tv-to-film adaptations such as A Very Brady Sequel (1996) and The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas (2000). Needless to say, Josie and the Pussycats has been altered in its translation to the screen. The intended model for the film was clearly Charlies Angels (2000), a big hit from the previous year that turned its original tv series into an unrecognizable piece of mindless bubblegum pop that actively invited the audience to not only recognize but cheer along with how silly it was being. (Josie and the Pussycats tips its inspiration in a throwaway entertainment magazine headline that notes that Drew Barrymore, Lucy Liu and Cameron Diaz are to play the Pussycats in a movie). The original Josie and the Pussycats cartoon show was light and comic but essentially straight-faced.
The fundamental difference between the two is that this is a Josie and the Pussycats that comes with a heavy dollop of contemporary irony, it is constantly asking its audience to wink at the artificiality of it all and how clever it is being for recognizing such. You wonder why Im here? Alexandra asks. Im here because I was in the comic-book. Later the FBI agent notes We were going to shut you down because studies have shown that subliminals work better in movies, whereupon a subliminal message flashes up on screen. There are a few occasionally amusing gags throughout like the parody of contemporary boy bands that opens the film whose hit single is, with some subversive amusement, titled Backdoor Lover. There is the murder attempt that falls just between the amusing and the silly with one killer doing impressions, while the other killer and his intended victim realize an attraction for one another as he is attempting to kill her.
The films one big gag is that it is satirizing movie merchandizing and product placement. The production has managed to get an extraordinary number of placements from McDonalds, Coke, Gap, Starbucks, about every franchise imaginable (a purported 73 different products). A number of entertainment establishments E!, Rolling Stone, Carson Daly, Billboard, Moviephone and MTV even allow themselves to be wound into the plot. Sometimes it is amusing like when McDonalds advertising starts turning up in the shower or a marine aquarium sports ads for Evian in its pool. Although, in a film like this, which has notedly used the same tactics to sell itself, you are not entirely sure whether the film is being subversive, whether it does not see the apparent double standard or if it is just being ironic.
In the end, beyond all that poppy energy and visuals and the satire on merchandising, what you are left with is a film that is frustratingly slight. The film opened with low box-office returns. Which was not too surprising one hardly thinks many people were waiting to see Josie and the Pussycats with breathless excitement and equally one suspects that even less remembered the film by the end of the summer.