Universal Home Video
Cast: Alan Cumming, Rachael Leigh Cook, Parker Posey, Rosario Dawson, Tara Reid, Gabriel Mann
Extras: Commentary Track, Deleted Scenes, Featurette, Music Videos, Theatrical Trailer, Production Notes, Cast & Crew
"Josie and the Pussycats" opens with the mysterious disappearance of the boy-band DuJour (played with tongue in cheek aplomb by Seth Green, Breckin Meyer, Donald Faison, and Alexander Martin), the "#1 Band in the World". Desperately in need of a new band to promote, record executive Wyatt Frame (Alan Cumming) finds himself in the town of Riverdale, where he discovers The Pussycats. The Pussycats are made up of Josie, guitars and vocals (Rachael Leigh Cook), Val, bass (Rosario Dawson), and Melody, drums (Tara Reid). Before Wyatt came to town, The Pussycats had been scraping by playing small gigs, such as the local bowling alley, which had been arranged by their manager Alexander Cabot (Paulo Costanzo), who is never without his sister Alexandra (Missi Pyle). When the girls weren’t playing or practicing, Josie spent her time pining over Alan M. (Gabriel Mann), the "sexiest guy in Riverdale".
The writing/directing team of Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfont, who had previously made the excellent "Can’t Hardly Wait", here set out to make a purely fun film with "Josie and the Pussycats". And while they succeeded admirably, they also managed to alienate the very viewers, which the film was aimed at. For beginners, the majority of teenagers probably wouldn’t appreciate most of humor in the film, or worse, could be offended by it. The movie is full of in-jokes about marketing and society. The most prominent target is product placement, as every conceivable surface is covered with a corporate logo. The movie also makes a very strong statement about conformity and the insanity of trends. Lastly, with the hilarious DuJour, "Josie and the Pussycats" takes aim at bands like N’Sync and the Backstreet Boys, and gives a rallying cry that rock is sorely missed. The up-tempo Juliana Hatfield-meets-Veruca Salt rock that Josie and the Pussycats play is a far cry from Britney Spears. Now, think about it, does the average 15-year old girl want to hear any of this? On the whole, teenagers love their Tommy Hilfiger clothes, the same ones that their friends have, and they love their pop music. Why would they want to see a movie that frowned upon all of this?
OK, now that I’ve extrapolated on why a film that was supposed to be the next big thing bombed, let’s look at what’s good about it. For one thing, the film’s satiric elements are dead on. The use of product placement is very clever, and kudos must go to the filmmakers for cramming in so many different corporate names. Also, pay close attention to the propaganda that is zooming by in Fiona’s lair. And DuJour is one of the funniest things that I’ve seen in a while. It’s truly a shame that they are only on-screen for such a short time (I would love to see a whole film with just these guys, as Seth Green and Breckin Meyer always crack me up). The insanely over-the-top Wyatt and Fiona are both very funny, as they inflate the stereotype of the egocentric record industry executive. Kaplan and Elfont continue to grow as filmmakers, and "Josie and the Pussycats" is a very well put-together film (check Chapter 8 for examples of their clever editing style). The film is full of clever in-jokes, although, it must be said that Alexandra gets most of the best lines in the film. The only real complaint that I have about "Josie and the Pussycats" is the casting, which I rarely harp on. While Rosario Dawson is perfect as Val, Rachael Leigh Cook and Tara Reid seem oddly miscast as Josie and Melody. Cook doesn’t come across as sweet and determined enough, while Reid (who I’ve never considered a genius), doesn’t seem stupid enough to play the naive Melody. But, this setback doesn’t ruin what is essentially a very fun, hip, and clever movie.
The same goes for the audio presentation. This DVD presents two fine soundtracks, one being a <$DD,Dolby Digital> <$5.1,5.1 channel> track and the other being <$DTS,DTS> 5.1 track. The only real difference between the two is the guitars in The Pussycats’ songs have more presence on the DTS track. Otherwise, both offer clear and audible dialogue, with no sign of hiss or distortion. The film is full of impressive surround sound, the best example coming at the 1:09:00 point. The concert scenes have a great deal of ambiance, as one feels surrounded by the crowd. Of course, the most important aspect of this film is the music, and it comes across great on both tracks (above exception noted), as there is a nice dynamic range and a good use of bass.
"Josie and the Pussycats" isn’t one of Universal’s "Collector’s Editions", but it still boasts some nice extras. The DVD has an <$commentary,audio commentary> with writers/directors Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfont, and producer Marc Platt. This is an odd commentary, as the trio consistently point out all of the problems with the film. I don’t know if this was their intention, but I came away from this commentary with the impression that "Josie and the Pussycats" was a low-budget film, where nothing was properly planned, and the producer wound up directing half of the movie. Weird. The trio does talk throughout the film and offers some interesting scene-specific comments, but even they admit that this isn’t as good as the "Can’t Hardly Wait" commentary, which featured an inexplicably British Seth Green. This isn’t a bad commentary, but it certainly doesn’t help one feel better about the movie.
Speaking of DuJour, there are two music videos from this faux-boy-band included here, for the songs "Backdoor Lover" and "Around the World". Both are essentially the same, but it’s great to see these guys making their "cool" faces. There is also a video for the Josie and the Pussycats’ song "3 Small Words", which is a montage of footage from the film. We next have the theatrical trailer for the film, which has been <$PS,letterboxed> at 1.85:1. The extras are rounded out by cast & crew filmographies and the lamest production notes that I’ve ever read.
While "Josie and the Pussycats" may have missed its mark in theatres, I think it will find a home on DVD. The film is harmless fun, which offers some interesting insights into modern life. The music is great and there are some truly funny moments. The DVD offers a great transfer, and more importantly, two great audio tracks to hear The Pussycats’ music. If you despise modern pop music, then you’ll love "Josie and the Pussycats". OK, now I want a Big Mac.