Josie and the Pussycats

In a Riverdale, California of the future, three best friends, Josie McCoy (Rachel Leigh Cook, "AntiTrust"), Valerie Brown (Rosario Dawson, "Kids") and Melody Valentine (Tara Reid, "American Pie") are a band trying to get their breakthrough gig in "Josie and the Pussycats."

Laura's Review: B-

The old 1960's Archie comic book and 1970's animated cartoon have been given a very modern update by writer/director duo Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfont ("Can't Hardly Wait"). Although the 'take-over-the-world via subliminal brainwashing' plotline is trite and cause for brash product placement, the characters are fresh and fun enough to make for a sprightly entertainment.

The film begins by introducing us to reigning boy group Du Jour performing on an airport runway to wildly appreciative fans. Aboard their private plane, heavily adorned with Target and Tide ads, petty squabbling among the group has made evil manager Wyatt Frame (Alan Cumming, "Spy Kids") grow weary, so he and the pilot parachute out leaving the group to their fate. Wyatt spots Josie and her pals outside a record shop and signs them up MegaRecords. Meanwhile MegaRecords CEO Fiona (Parker Posey, "Best in Show") is demonstrating to the FBI and representatives of foreign nations her high tech gizmo for putting subliminal messages like 'Orange is the new pink!' and 'Josie and the Pussycats are the best band in the world!' designed to control teenagers and their buying power into the pop music she sells. Cleanup of bands who cotton onto her scheme and become dangerous are dealt with, she explains, by the "Behind the Music" documentary she produces for VH1.

Wyatt wings the girls into a city coated with promotional neon and dominated by Mcdonalds' golden arches where they begin a whirlwind week of photo shoots, recording and video production that culminates with their single at the top of the charts. When the trio prove too tight for manipulation, Wyatt brainwashes Josie into a megalomaniacal rock star and dispatches Valerie and Melody to certain death at the hands of MTV's Carson Daly.

The cast is game if not all equally necessary. Cook, Dawson and Reid all learned to play their instruments and really look like a working pop group (Kate Hanley of Letters to Cleo provides Josie's vocals). Cook's perky and resilient while Dawson projects intelligence and doubt. Tara Reid's the most delightful as a warm and bubbly ditz who fantasizes about realizing such turns of phrase as 'I can't be everywhere at the same time.' Alan Cumming, who's not always prudent in choosing his roles, is a delight here as the scheming Wyatt although Posey's camping doesn't show much inspiration. Gabriel Mann ("Outside Providence") is charming as Alan M., Riverdale's sexiest guy who Josie wants more than friendship from. Alexander (Paulo Costanzo, "Road Trip") and Alexandra (Missi Pyle, "Galaxy Quest") Cabot are around because they were in the comic book, as Alexandra informs us in the film, but add little to the overall mix. The oddly uncredited members of the hilarious parody boy band Du Jour include Seth Green ("Austin Powers").

Technically, the film is first rate featuring trippy camera tricks by Matthew Libatique ("Requiem for a Dream"), eye popping production design from Jasna Stefanovich ("The Virgin Suicides") and Leesa Evans' ("American Pie") wildly colorful costumes. While the script's basic outline is lame, it delivers some funny dialogue and pithy music industry observations (when Du Jour's plane is lost a TV newsman reports 'The record label didn't issue a statement, but they did issue a commerative box set which will go on sale tomorrow.') Original songs produced by Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds could all achieve radio play on their own merits.

"Josie and the Pussycats" is a surprisingly fun lark that should appeal to the same audience that enjoyed last year's "Charlie's Angels."