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  Directed by
    None Listed
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 1.85:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer (RSDL )
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • Italian: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • Dutch: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  Subtitles
    Italian, English - Hearing Impaired, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish, German - Hearing Impaired
  Extras
  • 3 Deleted scenes
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Featurette - Backstage Pass
  • Animated menus
  • 3 Music video - 3 Small Words - Josie and the Pussycats, Backdoor Lover - Dujour, Dujour Around the World - Dujour

Josie and the Pussycats

MGM/20th Century Fox . R4 . COLOR . 94 mins . PG . PAL

  Feature
Contract

Three animated rock chicks with ever-so-cutie-pie pussycat ears - Josie, Melody and Valerie - were role models for me as a littlie. So upon first hearing that my favourite cartoon of all from childhood was to receive the Hollywood live action smash and grab treatment I was incredibly concerned to say the least.

Their names are the same, they still have the gorgeous ears, they play the same instruments and still live in the same town as Archie, Jughead, Betty, Veronica, Reggie and Sabrina - Riverdale. Their not particularly efficient manager Alexander Cabot III is also still along for the ride, with his rather superfluous twin sister, the skunk-haired Alexandra (who in one fabulous moment actually gets to admit she's only here because she was in the comic book). However, perhaps wisely these basics are all that remain.

But first, there's the story of Dujour - the N-Sync-styled boy band of the day (with a very appropriate name). Leaving behind a phalanx of screaming fans to set off on a world tour in their private jet, the four lads with headset mikes permanently attached meet with a slight mishap near Riverdale when their manager, Mega Records rep Wyatt Frame (Alan Cumming), decides it's time for the pilot to "take the Chevy to the levee". With nought but remixes and a retrospective box set of their one-year 'career' left to fill the Mega coffers, the pressure is on from his boss, Fiona (Parker Posey), to find a new band to market - and quickly.

The Pussycats of now are a garage band with a fun line in grungy agit-pop, stuck playing gigs to those who couldn’t care less at the Riverdale Pin Palace. Disillusioned with their lack of success, Josie (Rachael Leigh Cook) decides to be proactive about it all (who's a rock star?), so she, Val (Rosario Dawson) and Mel (Tara Reid) set out to busk their way to success. As fate would have it they almost get run over by Wyatt upon being moved on by a cloth-eared shopkeeper, and without his hearing a single note The Pussycats are offered a Mega Records contract - after all, they'll look simply marvellous on a CD cover! Now no matter how dubious it may all seem, what self-respecting rock chick could turn down such an amazing offer?

And so the band set off for "the city". When they find themselves made over, number one on the Billboard charts, adorning the cover of Rolling Stone, being pursued by rabid fans and selling out stadium gigs - all within one week of signing - they begin to get just a little bit more suspicious, and as it would turn out their concerns are well founded. They are unwittingly a part of a huge conspiracy to brainwash the most influential financial demographic of them all - the teen market - whose brains like Play Doh are seen as being easily malleable through manipulating music with "subliminal" messages telling them what's cool and what's not - what they must buy, wear and even say - "Josie and the Pussycats are the new Dujour!" Hey, it's good for the economy…

With all of Wyatt and Fiona's ensuing meddling, will The Pussycats' pledge that they'll be friends forever no matter what survive, or will they indeed go down as the new Dujour? And just who is that mysterious shadowy figure?

"Just think Christina Aguilera times three, except of course one of them's incredibly tan - or else TLC with two white chicks… or, umm, Hole..."

Sure it's a simple plot - but what separates Josie and the Pussycats from similar such crossovers is the bitingly witty and mercilessly satirical script from Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfont, the same writer/director coupling responsible for the rather undervalued Can’t Hardly Wait (which gets its own special cameo mention in Josie). Taking a finely honed axe to teenage fads, product placement and the whole insipid boy/girl band in-it-for-the-marketing trend of recent years - and also managing to drop lyrical quotes into the dialogue in a non-clunky manner that a certain Baz Luhrmann could take a few cues from - the film has been accused by many of missing its target (heehee) by going for the jugular of the actual market it was supposedly aimed at. Whilst this may apply to some of that demographic (heaven help us), it could also be argued that such opinions under-estimate the very audience the film appears to have been designed for - the slightly older, been-there-done-that-and-learned-the-lesson later teens and older who can appreciate the merciless puss-taking, incisive and just plain hilarious-at-times script.

The one line that may have been crossed is that of the rampant use of product placement on anything that moves, or indeed doesn’t. At first it's amusing in its sheer over-the-top-ness, and it's blatantly obvious what the writers were aiming at - you have to use real products to make such a dig work - but how much is too much?

Anyway, as well as the kick-butt script, the actors really make Josie work. The three Pussycats are all perfectly cast, Cook's determined-but-reticent flame-haired Josie, Dawson's well grounded Valerie and Reid's delightfully authentic bubble-headed Melody. As far as perfect 'baddies' you can’t go past Cumming's delightfully snide Richard E. Grant-like Wyatt and Parker Posey gets to camp it up to ludicroush degreesh as the I've-got-a-shecret wannabe girlie-girl Fiona. Inspired cameos also abound, including Seth Green and Breckin Meyer as members of Dujour and Eugene Levy lampooning himself wonderfully in a certain educational film.

  Video
Contract

Hiss! Things were going SO well until that stupid television popped up. Essentially this 1.85:1 anamorphic presentation is superb. The hyper-dayglo colours of the Pussycats' marketing person's wet dream of a world all come to our screens gloriously, with fabulous skin tones, superb detail, spot-on black levels, nice shadow detail in the few instances where it's apt and a complete lack of speckles or any other forms of detritus such as film transfers more often than not throw up at us. The only things that sour the milk are a rather whickety-whack extended outbreak of shimmering on that aforementioned television quite late in the film (that's the actual unit by the way, not the screen), and an incredibly ineptly placed layer change smack dab in the middle of a scene. However, other than these two relatively minor hairballs this is an exemplary transfer.

  Audio
Contract

Josie and the Pussycats is one heck of a workout for any system, and the 5.1 mix on this disc (sorry, there's no 3DX Surround Sound as featured in the film) manages to do it the justice it deserves. Surround usage is plentiful and joyous without being overdone, and the subwoofwoof manages to behave itself very well considering all the feline temptations at hand, adding some fabulous bass oomph to many spot effects and most all of the music (and naturally enough there's lots of it) throughout the film. Lip synch is fine for the mostly clear dialogue (some lines are a little rushed and hard to understand on occasions), although can be a little off in some of the mimed songs - notably those from Du Jour. This, of course, was quite possibly intentional considering the nature of the film. Speaking of miming, the three Pussycats do a fabulous job of pretending to play their respective instruments, and actually spent two weeks at band camp (sans flutes) learning how to play them for their roles.

The soundtrack consists mainly of songs by Josie and the Pussycats, all in a catchy girlie pop/rock sort of Veruca Salt meets No Doubt meets Elastica via The Go-Gos' kind of style, which in actuality were performed by a bunch of session musos. Josie's lead vocals come courtesy of Letters to Cleo's Kay Hanley, although the three Pussycats did actually provide backing vocals. The songs certainly weren't skimped on, with knobs twiddled by renowned producer Kenneth 'Babyface' Edmonds, and songwriters including such talent as Jane Wiedlin (The Go-Go's, rather appropriately), Adam Duritz (Counting Crows) and Adam Schlesinger (Fountains of Wayne, Ivy and also responsible for songs from the wonderful film That Thing You Do!). As well as the many and varied original compositions on offer, there are also spirited takes on the classic Money (That's What I Want) and J.O.K.'s Real Wild Child, and naturally the original Josie and the Pussycats theme song. Otherwise there are the brilliantly produced, and scarily authentic, boy band stylings of the Dujour songs, an outbreak of Captain and Tennille's Love Will Keep Us Together and even probably the most peculiar ever placement of Meatloaf's Jim Steinman-produced opus (and friend of bogan party DJs everywhere as it's so darned long) Paradise By the Dashboard Light.

  Extras
Contract

The main menu features some animation which isn’t overly inspiring, accompanied by the song 3 Small Words. Whilst not the most amazing collection of extras ever to land on a little shiny disc, there's still enough worthy of getting a bit of a purr going for, even if for some incredibly stupid AND annoying reason we don’t get the commentary from the directors that R1 did - which is a pretty darned puss paw omission by the local arm of MGM that will annoy many...

Featurette - Backstage Pass: (23:49) A decent length, nicely paced puff piece featuring interview snippets with almost all cast members, the directors, producers and other crew, those requisite scenes from the film, a look at the movie's wild fashions, much detail relating to the music and behind the scenes stuff via handheld 'Josie Cam'. It's full frame with film clips at 1.85:1, and comes up quite well except for a bit of over-saturation, especially on the red side of things.

Deleted scenes: The only thing wrong with the non-anamorphic 1.85:1 cuts here is that there are only three...

Fiona's Dance (1:42) - More an alternate take of Fiona's arrival at 'her' party, in this case doing a wonderfully OTT song and dance number with attendant males to a cabaret version of Josie and the Pussycats' first single Pretend To Be Nice.

Toy Store (1:30) - A totally cut scene, with Josie getting all the attention at an in-store signing session, whilst Val and Mel get to play with Pussycats dolls. It's all quite cute, and something that could have easily stayed in the final version.

Wire Hangers? (0:47) - Just a slight and not particularly exciting extension of a scene in Josie's hotel room.

Theatrical trailer: (2:17) A great fun 16x9 enhanced 1.85:1 affair, featuring THAT fabulous voice of THE guy who does trailers.

Music video - 3 Small Words - Josie and the Pussycats: (2:52) One of the catchier original songs accompanied by a typical melange of rapidly cut scenes from the movie, all in non-enhanced 1.85:1.

Music video - Backdoor Lover - Dujour: (3:42) Seth et al ham it up to great effect on THAT plane, with this rather frighteningly authentic double-entendre laden song.

Music video - Dujour Around the World - Dujour: (2:57) More airplane tomfoolery from the boys - all dressed in orange, which I believe was the new red at the time - plus Alan Cumming's along for the ride with his security blanket-like mobile phone.

  Overall  
Contract

The presentation of Josie on this DVD is pretty impressive, with fabulous sound and near-perfect vision, and the extras are decent enough - although the removal of the commentary is phenomenally disappointing, as for a region 4 release it would have been infinitely more preferable than the Dutch or Italian 5.1 soundtracks that take up space on the disc (apologies to any Dutch or Italian readers).

Managing to combine unbridled cynicism, spot-on humour as well as a certain sweetness and even a little bit of a love story, Josie and the Pussycats is easily the most fun comedy to hit our screens since Austin Powers. Behind the pessimistic façade lurks a quite wonderful "just be yourself" message that is never overplayed, and basically to let its average box office showing, or indeed the reviews of many that just plain didn’t get it, cause you to pass this by would simply be a mewling shame. Don't believe the (lack of) hype!

Yes, my initial fears were well and truly unfounded, and with little resemblance to the original cartoon and comic other than the use of a few character and place names this would have worked just as well with completely original characters. Hey, it has even managed to rekindle my latent rock chick yearnings! Hand me a bass... but first, was orange the new pink, pink the new red, or red the new orange? I'm so confused!


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      And I quote...
    "Don't believe the (lack of) hype - this is easily the most fun comedy to hit our screens since Austin Powers..."
    - Amy Flower
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Pioneer DV-535
    • TV:
          Sony 68cm
    • Receiver:
          Onkyo TX-DS494
    • Speakers:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse RBS662
    • Centre Speaker:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse ECC442
    • Surrounds:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse ECR042
    • Subwoofer:
          DTX Digital 4.8
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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