Josie & the Pussycats is one of those films that people have the tendency to underestimate. After all, with Hollywood’s tendency to cash on the financial success of an old TV show by offering up a watered-down big screen adaptation, a la Bewitched, it’s easy to lose faith in these types of films. Still, to lump Josie & the Pussycats into this category is to do the guilty pleasure a great disservice. True, it suffers from the fact that its target audience knows little to nothing of its source material, but rather than pander, Josie & the Pussycats takes the opportunity to turn into a bizarre experience in pop culture commentary. That’s not to say that the film doesn’t have its low points, but overall, it stands the test of a time as a guilty pleasure with purpose.
It’s hard to imagine anything Tara Reid has ever done having some sort of cultural worth, but what Josie & the Pussycats brings to the table is a surprisingly potent blend of comedy and criticism. For those unfamiliar with the film, it centers around Josie and her two band mates, Melody and Valerie, as their friendship is put to the test when they hit it big. Well, at least, that’s the film’s focus on a surface level.
Throughout the movie, it’s difficult to focus on much else besides the production design of the film. I mean, sure, you can pay enough attention to get a cheap joke here or there, but the film is a truly visual testament to the filmmakers. Well, not so much to the filmmakers as to Target, Coca Cola, Sony, and numerous other brand names. The film is full of label after label, with at least one in every shot, but normally more. It’s no surprise that when it comes to the film’s final pay-off that the big joke would be the entire commercialization process. Using subliminal messaging to get kids to buy things? How dastardly!
The real joke is that music hasn’t been using subliminal messages for awhile. The glorification of capitalism has been alive and well in the music industry for years. It’s even become a priority. But never before have I seen it portrayed with such fervor and intensity as in Josie & the Pussycats.
Then again, the real genius of the movie lies outside of the diegetic world of the film. It exists in the audience. At the time of the film’s release, it was marketed as a feel-good teen movie about a bunch of smalltown girls making it big. Furthermore, it had an impressive soundtrack for such a poorly received film, eventually going gold after selling more than half a million copies. The fact of the matter is, Josie & the Pussycats was media-saturated. It worked its hardest to pull in the teenage audience, hoping to cash in on the disposable income of the teenage market. In short, the film itself was doing exactly what the film was accusing its villains of doing. This isn’t a crime in itself. It’s a clever, if not slightly dishonest, approach to the cutthroat world of movies, money, and box office success.