Review of Josie and the Pussycats
By: Jenna Sparks

One of the greatest joys of being a part of a child's journey is having the opportunity to revisit the things that helped shape you in your own youth. I shared the 2001 film Josie and the Pussycats with my teenager, a film I adored when it was released when I was twelve. Growing up around teenagers who subscribed to various subcultures, I had started my own budding journey of curious expression of my identity. By the time I was thirteen, my hair was dyed black and sheered and spiked and I was wearing the type of clothes my mom had repeatedly asked, "are you allowed to wear that to school?" What the film gave my pre-pubescent mind was the nod and the wink that it was fine that I wanted to explore my identity and creativity and strive to ignore what the popular kids were doing and focus on what made me happy.

So, let's rewind to the actual film. Before Riverdale and the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina spun the grim, dark, and gritty webs featuring the once wholesome characters in Riverdale and Greendale (and after the zany treat of Sabrina: The Teenage Witch), Josie and the Pussycats was released. Written and directed by Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfont (whose most noteworthy credit is 1998's Can't Hardly Wait, a film which curated the collection of actors portraying pop band Dujour in Josie and the Pussycats) and starring Rachel Leigh Cook as Josie, Tara Reid as Melody, and Rosario Dawson as Valerie and a slew of hilarious cameos.

The movie, should you have never seen it or have forgotten over the last 20 years, features struggling rock band, The Pussycats, striving to gain momentum in popularity in a world dominated by trends; fashion, music, and beverages just to name a few. When Mega Records' number one band, Dujour, tragically disappears after their plane crashed 40 miles outside of Riverdale, it's up to music-industry mogul Wyatt to find their replacement. After discovering The Pussycats, Wyatt takes the girl-group on a wild montage of makeovers, music video filming, and eventual record recording with the help of a piece of tech that, on the surface, makes the music sound more refined and professionally engineered, but actually produces tracks of subliminal messages. Not only is there a strong layer of commentary about capitalism in society, but eventually, Mega Records seeks to address world leaders to be able to use the technology for their own benefit.

And look, do I giggle when the film opens with boy band Dujour performing their iconic bop "Backdoor Lover"? Yes. I really do. Do I also laugh when beloved Canadian Eugene Levy appears to educate the previously mentioned world leaders about the use of subliminal messaging? Oh my God, yes. Do I also chuckle each time the film gracefully breaks the fourth wall? Of course! But where this movie shines is that, at its core, it is a wholesome take on individuality and acknowledging the harm of corporations preying on the youth. It shines a light on the insecurities that major companies profit from and, at the end, gives us a proper message (blatant, not subliminal) that you're more than what you're told to buy, wear, listen to, watch, eat, or drink.

On top of that, the film is an aesthetic delight. Seeing the more forgotten fashions of the early 2000's (low-rise trousers, bandana/scarf halter tops, bandana headbands, frosty blue eyeshadow, 1960's Mod revival d├ęcor) to hearing the soundtrack (starring Letters to Cleo frontwoman Kay Hanley) that is still a transcendent experience (and that I can proudly still sing along to), is just an absolute hoot!

Another aspect of the film that stands out is how well it's held up over the years. Let's face it, hindsight can easily leave us with sour tastes when we see how much humor has evolved and shifted, but Josie and the Pussycats really stands on its own two feet with its take as a funny social commentary. Minus a Bill Cosby joke (that really, really, really did not age well knowing what we know now, but who could have guessed back then?) and a few nods to the gross and ill-intended normalization of disordered eating being the butt of the joke, for the most part, the movie remains both hilarious and ahead of its time in terms of conversation, message, and concepts, especially in a time when comedy revolved around band camp and pies.

The best part, I think, is how much my teenager enjoyed the film. He laughed and snorted as much as I did, though he had no idea who Carson Daly was. He enjoyed watching it for the first time just the same as I enjoyed watching it 20 years after loving it upon its initial release. It's a goofy movie that is aware of itself, aware of its audience, and maintains hilarity throughout. It's also a pleasant reminder that being yourself and valuing yourself is more important than "selling out" at the cost of your creative motivations and relationships. If you've never seen it, please watch it. If you haven't watched it in years, re-watch.

At the end of the day, I think it's safe to say I'm happy to give the film a 5 out 5 stars 20 years ago and today! Josie and the Pussycats is available to stream on HBO Max.

Let The Contributor Know What You Think!

HTML Comment Box is loading comments...