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Josie and the Pussycats

As the recent resurge of teen movies begins to wane, in popularity as well as quality, it is a pleasant surprise to note that Josie and the Pussycats is not indeed a death knell, but a bright and good-natured light in the encroaching darkness. Directing and writing team Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfont, who were also responsible for one of the genre's best moments of the 1990s, the effusive and witty Can't Hardly Wait, infuse their special blend of enthusiasm and comic detail into this slight filmization of the all-girl band from Archie comics. Rachel Leigh Cook, Tara Reid, and Rosario Dawson star as the Pussycats, a punk-pop trio filling disinterested bowling alleys with their Elastica-lite tunes and dreaming of superstardom. Their dream is realized too suddenly, as a major label rep (Alan Cumming) suspiciously signs them without hearing a song and whisks them quickly — in a week, no less — to the very top of the charts. Swept up in the hysteria, the Pussycats realize only too late that they have become pawns in a scheme to brainwash the youth of America into mindless consumers (as if that hasn't been accomplished already). Josie and the Pussycats is, well, silly, but playfully so, and never dumb as Kaplan and Elfont keep their fast-paced film brimming with clever performances and sharp visual wit (the shot in which Cumming discovers the band is simply brilliant filmmaking, up there with the best mise en scene in the business). The colorful, product-placement-heavy production design, which resembles Blade Runner wrapped in bubble gum, is almost as stimulating as our heroines' tight outfits, and, surprisingly, the Pussycats' music, while lacking originality, is tuneful and not unpleasant. The cameo appearances by Seth Green and Breckin Meyer as members of vapid boy band Du Jour is a fun lampoon while also highlighting one Josie's best assests: The film is actually quite cynical about its target audience, and instead of pandering to the lowest common denominator, gives it a soft kick in the head. With a colorful boot. Universal's DVD offers a great looking anamorphic transfer (1.85:1), audio in DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1, and a pleasing palate of special features. Kaplan and Elfont are joined by producer Mark Platt on an amusing commentary track, and the disc also includes a few negligible deleted scenes, a "Backstage Pass" featurette, music videos for the Pussycats' "Three Small Words" and Du Jour's "Backdoor Lover" and "Around the World," DVD-ROM content, and a trailer. Keep-case.
—Gregory P. Dorr



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