The Archie’s was a hit cartoon for the animation studio Filmation which was about a struggling rock band consisting of teenagers from the town of Riverdale. Based on characters from Archie Comics the cartoon not only did well in the ratings, but saw the release of hit singles sung by the fictitious cartoon band. Filmation followed up with two other hit cartoon series adapted from Archie Comics, Sabrina the Teenage Witch and it’s spin off The Groovie Goolies. Hanna-Barbera wanted to get into the action and negotiated with Archie Comics for another one of their properties, a comic book called Josie and Her Friends. Deciding the cartoon should have a band just like Archie did, Hanna-Barbera came up with the concept of a feline themed band lead by Josie called The Pussy Cats. The girls in the band wore leopard print tights, a fake tail and strap on kitty ears. The series would be modeled after Hanna-Barbera’s other hit cartoon Scooby-Doo, Where Are You and have the Pussy Cats solving mysteries each week, although after a few weeks they began fighting super villains and master spies. This was the beginning of the cliche 70’s cartoon formula where a group of kids who have their own band travel the country fighting crime and singing songs. For the second season the show followed yet another cliche when it was rebooted as Josie and the Pussy Cats in Outer Space. The series only lasted two seasons, including the second season that had them on their own space ship, a total of 32 episodes. The Pussy Cats made one last guest appearance on Scooby Doo before Hanna-Barbera abandoned the cartoon and it’s characters for good. From there the reruns went into syndication and finally to Cartoon Network. Nostalgia for retro Saturday Morning cartoons revived interest in the cartoon, and predictably a live action movie was produced.
The big screen version of Josie and the Pussycats ignores it’s source material, both the Saturday Morning cartoon and the comic book Josie and Her Friends. Instead the movie is a formulaic story about the rise of an all girl group from garage band to international pop stars, and the pitfalls such a band face. ( well, excluding sex and drugs ). In the beginning of the movie Josie ( Rachael Leigh Cook ) and her band mates ( Tara Reid and Rosario Dawson ) are playing a gig at a bowling alley and being ignored by the elderly bowlers. The band is going nowhere when by chance they are almost run over by record producer Wyatt Frame ( Alan Cumming ) who after viewing the girls through his windshield decides that he could market them as the next great thing. He and his partner Fiona ( Parker Posey ) signs the girls without hearing them perform and in no time the Pussycats are on the top of the charts. But what would Josie and the Pussycats be without villains? It turns out that Wyatt and Fiona have a machine that implants subliminal messages into the Pussycats recordings which cause their fans to buy whichever products they are pushing. Not villainous enough? Wyatt and Fiona decide they want Josie to be a solo act, but are so corrupt that they try to kill off the other band members. But that is as far as the movie comes to replicating the cartoon. Josie’s boyfriend Alen, the band’s manager Alexander Cabot III and his fraternal twin sister Alexandra are barely present. In the cartoon it was Alexandra who usually got the group into trouble through her screaming to steal Alan from Josie. Not so in the movie where Alexandra and her brother are practically limited to cameo status. And forget about Alexandra’s cat Sebastian. Universal probably did not want to spend an extra million that a computer animated Sebastian would have cost, so the character simply does not exist.
Frankly, I would not have cared much that the movie was unfaithful to it’s source material provided the film version was any good. It isn’t good, but in a frustrating way. You see, two thirds of the movie is excruciatingly bad. But the remaining third of the movie is made up of great scenes. It is as if two movies are competing to exist at the same time, a well made parable about the rise and near fall of a female rock band, and a dumb campy film about the commercialization of pop music. The end result is a movie that will win you over in one scene and drive you away in the very next scene. And that is a shame.
Once again here is a movie that has picked up a reputation for having scenes featuring kinky fashions. Not really the case. There are shiny clothes, but more of the sequin and metallic inlays variety, and usually in a style that is more cute than sexy. Think 1970s variety show quality outfits. The Pussycats do not even dress in anything close to kinky until 29 minutes into the movie, after they have a makeover which results in Tara wearing grey leather pants and matching vest, Rosario wearing black leather pants and a slightly shimmering top, and Rachael wearing a sequin black top. That may sound sexy, but the only outfit worth seeking out happens at 35 minutes when Rachael is wearing a maroon metallic top with black vinyl pants. Everything else is shown too briefly, or just isn’t sexy enough. At 38 minutes is a montage cut together to show the Pussycat’s rise to fame in only a week. The montage features quick glimpse of various metallic and sequin/rhinestone outfits. It also features a photo shoot where the Pussycats are wearing animal print outfits ( the closest the movie comes to them wearing their pussy cat outfits from the cartoon, ) and another photo shoot where they are washing a car and squirting each other with a hose, wearing black leather pants and t-shirt tops of different colors. Other outfits worth mentioning, Rachael wearing more black leather pants at 40 minutes, and a glittering near golden dress at 47 minutes. And the band wears outfits made from the same silver sequin material at 1 hour 26 minutes. Parker Posey has a few interesting outfits. At 31 minutes she wears something close to a toga made out of shiny blue material with metallic inlays. And at 50 minutes she wears a dress, the top which appears to have been made up of several different leather straps wrapped around her body.