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'Josie and the Pussycats'

'Josie's' the cat's meow for the MTV generation

Wednesday, April 11, 2001

By Ed Masley, Post-Gazette Pop Music Critic

Josie and the Pussycats are overnight sensations, one-hit wonders foisted on an unsuspecting public by a vast behind-the-scenes conspiracy of vested interests out to brainwash the youth of America into living life as mindless drones and, by association, good consumers.

"Josie and the Pussycats"

RATING: PG-13 for language and sensuality.

STARRING: Rachael Leigh Cook, Tara Reid, Rosario Dawson.

DIRECTOR: Deborah Kaplan, Harry Elfont.




Sound familiar?

Sure it does. It's how the entertainment industry has operated -- quite successfully -- for decades now.

But it's also the plot of a movie, based on '60s cartoon rockers, being marketed aggressively to Carson Daly fans while using product placement as a means of satirizing corporate culture.

Can a cartoon rock group eat its cake and joke about how yucky cake is, too?

Apparently, it can.

It helps that, unlike Oliver Stone in his bloodletting media-violence satire "Natural Born Killers," the vast behind-the-scenes conspiracy behind the Pussycats has kept it light and fluffy. Silly even. And good-natured, what with Carson Daly on the scene as Carson Daly. He's part of the vast behind-the-scenes conspiracy (imagine that!), and he's been sent to whack the Pussycats -- not Josie (she's the star), just Val and Melody.

He fails, of course. There are no murders here in cartoon land. And no real tears. It's far too cute for that, although the humor is incredibly inappropriate at times for anyone you'd like to think would be too young to get the dirty jokes about the band name.

From the moment she leaps through the air in a black Ramones shirt over the opening credits, Rachael Leigh Cook is just adorable as Josie, which is all she really needs to be. Rosario Dawson plays her one note (unnaturally bitter) really well as Val. And Tara Reid is so convincing as airheaded Melody, you have to wonder how she ever found the set.

Together as the Pussycats, they've got a youthful energy that's perfect for the fuel-injected power-pop that is their stock in trade. And, by the way, the soundtrack could be just the thing to wean the kids off Britney Spears.

There's plenty here for kids to love, from glamour shots of Josie and her Pussycats to celebrity cameos of Daly and the like to dirty jokes to a sweet and believable romance that blossoms between our hero, Josie, and the hometown boy she's always wanted. Those who grew up on the cartoon probably will find it all a little silly, but you may appreciate the Riverdale nostalgia, the mockery it makes of corporate culture and such classic moments of self-referential camp as the scene in which the Pussycats' manager, Alexander, tells his sister, Alexandra, "I still don't understand why you're here," to which she deadpans, "I'm here 'cause I was in the comic book."

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