A review of  Josie and the Pussycats” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: ***

Rating: PG-13 for lightly intense situations

Run Time: 1 hour, 35 minutes

 

Shameless product placement adds a refreshing wink-and-a-nudge to this hyper kinetic rags-to-riches musical that dissolves into a stupendously ridiculous teen-targeted finale.

But oh, that first hour. Comic book turned cartoon turned feature-film often spells disaster, but a buoyant performance by Rachael Leigh Cook (as Josie) and a witty storyline raise the bar from pedestrian to purrrrfectly delightful.  From their humble beginnings as a determined garage band in the quintessential small town of Riverdale (hello, Archie fans!), the Pussycats find themselves unexpectedly “discovered” by big-time music manager Wyatt Frame (Alan Cumming).  A MegaRecords contract is signed, and success is instantaneous - via a whirl of pop-art posters,  sold-out concerts, happening parties, and screaming fans.   

Fame is not what it’s cracked up to be.  Josie, Melanie (Tara Reid), and Val (Rosario Dawson), who vowed “friends first, band second” are torn apart by the smooth-talking Frame, who has a malevolent hidden agenda of his own.  As chief puppeteer of MegaRecords CEO Fiona (Parker Posey), Frame is an accomplice to the fiendish plan of attaching subliminal recordings to popular teen music, forcing unsuspecting adolescents to hit the malls en-masse for the trendiest in clothing, make-up, eats and CDs. You dastardly devils, you!  When Josie and her pussycats get wind of the machiavellian conspiracy against the country’s best and brightest, they take matters into their own paws, I mean hands.

That’s where things go south.  The last twenty minutes is a preposterous, albeit lively, mess of improbability and awkward set-ups.  Up to that point, however, the action is charming and fast-paced.  Target, McDonalds, Revlon, and Starbucks get into the act with relentless, exaggerated product pitches good for a giggle or two.  The band shows good form in characterizing a grounded teen image, while the actresses demonstrate an easygoing talent and solid trio chemistry.  Cumming is all cunning camp, but Posey’s pushy record exec is an unfortunate weak link.  Band music is a snappy, peppy compliment to this engaging, lightweight piece of fluff.