Josie and the Pussycats is a 2001 film adapted from the comic of the same name, starring Rachael Leigh Cook, Rosario Dawson and Tara Reid. It is about the titular all-female rock band getting the deal of a lifetime after struggling as an indie band — a record deal with MegaRecords, one of the largest music labels in the world.
Within a week, the band has skyrocketed to the top of the charts, and a legion of squeeing fans is following their every move. Unfortunately, there was some fine print in the contract that they should've read before they signed... you know, some stuff about having subliminal messages put in your music to sell stuff, and "dying tragically" in a plane crash or from an overdose if you find out and resist. That sort of thing.
There was a huge legal brawl with Archie Comics over them getting residuals and/or royalties from the movie. In the end, the film was a Box Office Bomb, and its failure did lasting damage to Rachael Leigh Cook's film careernote . In spite of all this, it has become something of a cult hit on VHS and DVD.
This film provides examples of:
- An Aesop... or several dozen: "So, what's the moral of the story here? Freaks should date other freaks?" "No, I think the moral of the story here is you should be happy with who you are. This whole time we've been spending all this money on expensive clothes trying to impress people, it never made me happy. No... no, oh my gosh, happiness is on the inside. I'm not this, I'm not what I wear. I'm not what I wear! You should think about this."
- And Your Little Dog, Too!: The Metallica fans even beat up Du Jour's monkey!
- As Himself: MTV VJ Carson Daly makes a brief appearance where he tries to kill Melody and Valerie on a fake TRL set. The scene becomes funnier if you know that, at the time the film was made, Carson was dating Tara Reid. Eugene Levy also hosts the instructional video describing why Subliminal Advertising is so important to the economy, and MTV News anchor Serena Altschul makes an appearance.
- Aside Glance: Upon 'discoering' the Pussycats, Wyatt gives one of the smuggest Aside Glances in cinematic history
- Beautiful All Along: Inverted. The divaish record executve Fiona turns out to be Lisa Snyder, a nerdy girl with buck teeth who speaks with a lisp, and tries to put subliminal messages into her label's music to get everybody to like her. Meanwhile, Wyatt Frame, the suave Brit, turns out to be "White-Ass Wally," an albino American with a beer gut — and one of Fiona/Lisa's former classmates. They cover up their looks using makeup, veneers and fake accents.
- Big Damn Heroes: Du Jour, previously thought to be dead in a plane crash, at the end.
- Boy Band: Du Jour is a parody of boy bands.
- Brainwashed: The evil executives use Subliminal Seduction to brainwash Josie and turn her into a bitchy diva.
- Cool Loser: The Pussycats at the beginning of the film. Yes, that's right. Rachael Leigh Cook, Rosario Dawson and (pre-trainwreck) Tara Reid are presented as unpopular. Gotta love Hollywood.
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: Fiona.
- Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Melody unexpectedly turns out to be an amazing martial artist.
- Cult Soundtrack: The soundtrack to the film, an Affectionate Parody of Power Pop, Pop Punk, and Boy Band tropes, is nowadays arguably more famous than the film itself.
- The Cuckoolander Was Right: After Josie asks the others they think Wyatt's offer of a record deal is a "little off", Melody, apparently accurately, noted the way he folded his napkin as an indicator of how lonely he is.
- Deconstructive Parody: Not only of itself, but most notably of the entire music industry.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: Du Jour's hit single, "Backdoor Lover".
- Evil Diva: Fiona. Subverted in that she doesn't actually make or perform the music, but is rather the CEO of a record company. The band is also unwittingly turned into these as a result of her actions.
- Evil Is Petty: All of the conspiracy, million of dollars of technology, and nearly getting the girls killed, and the endgame plan... is to get people to think how cool Fiona is. Just... wow.
- Fake Nationality: Both out- and In-Universe: Alan Cumming's character turns out to be an American. In other words, you've got a Scottish man playing an American who's pretending to be English. That sound you just heard was your head exploding.
- For the Evulz: For no apparent reason, Wyatt seems to be deliberately degrading and trivializing Valerie from the very start; he leaves her on the side of the street when their car starts, delivers only two invitations to the party instead of three, etc. There seems to be no actual goal here, since he is not trying to force her out of the band or split up the friendship (at least, not until later, when she starts asking questions). It really seems like he is torturing her just to see her squirm. On the DVD commentary, they say it's because she's the bass player. In addition, he's trying to force the Pussycats into his vision of the band (Josie as the Face of the Band, with Valerie and Melody as backup). The reason he isn't grinding down Mel too is because she's obviously going to be far less trouble. On a more sinister level, he might even be deliberately laying future seeds of conflict to keep the Pussycats too distracted with infighting to stumble across the truth like Du Jour did.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar:
- In the first song the girls play in the movie ("Three Small Words," over the opening credits), there's a subtle line about looking like porn stars, and also the words "I'm a ten-ticket thrill-ride, don't you want to come inside?"
- The signs that Melody holds to promote the band leads to a car crash when the "cats" in Pussycats gets blocked.
- "Backdoor Lover" is a rare example of a triple entendre. The song could just be about sneaking into your house at night for some nookie without your parents noticing, but it gets worse. A backdoor man is a term for someone who is conducting a surreptitious affair with someone who is already in an established relationship, and the song does indeed mention right at the start that the love is wrong, giving credence to this meaning as well. Worse, however, "backdoor lover" has quite another meaning as well, and the song mentions running hands over cheeks, lying on the bed looking up at the "moon", and of course "coming" in through the back door and from behind. And naturally, the song never actually gives any indication that the lover they're singing to is, in fact, female, and makes frequent references to their love being forbidden or seen as a sin. In fact, the full version of the song features the following line: "Most people use the front door/But that's never been my way/Just 'cause I slip in through the back/That doesn't make me...hey!"
- Glamour Failure: Occurs twice with Fiona when her veneers start slipping out of place, causing her to start lisping. The first time it happens, she's able to quickly fix it and claim that it was just food stuck in her teeth, while the second time, it marks her Villainous Breakdown.
- Hotter and Sexier: Their outfits are just a tad hotter than one-piece swimsuits and leopard tights.
- Large Ham: Parker Posey and Alan Cumming are practically dueling for this title, explicitly so in the scene where they duel evil laughs.
- Live-Action Adaptation
- Meaningful Name: Du Jour, the band of the day.
- Mythology Gag: Alex asks why his sister is even with them. She says it's because she was in the comics.
- Not Quite Dead: Du Jour. They managed to safely land the plane after Wyatt and the pilot jumped out and left them for dead... only they landed it in the parking lot of a Metallica concert."I thank God every day that I knew the lyrics to 'Enter Sandman'."
- Oblivious to Love: Alan M.
- Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Midvale is in the Upper Midwest. How do we know? Because Rachael Leigh Cook's Minnesoota accent keeps slipping through.
- Plot-Mandated Friendship Failure
- Product Placement: Parodied by way of cranking it Up to Eleven.
- Reunion Revenge: While no Class Reunion is featured in the film, when the girls who usually mocked Josie and her friends started worshipping them, Wyatt told them most people had to wait 10 years for that kind of revenge.
- She-Fu: Melodie surprises everybody during the climactic fight scene.
- She Knows Too Much
- To Romy and Michele's High School Reunion, which also starred Alan Cumming.
- "Barrymore, Diaz & Liu to play Pussycats in Josie Movie!"
- Wyatt and Fiona both attended "Huntington High School", the same school from the filmmakers' previous movie, Can't Hardly Wait.
- Du Jour's pet monkey is named Dr Zaius.
- Subliminal Advertising: The record company is putting subliminal messages into music in order to sell consumer products. The movie itself does this with one scene, where the words "Josie and the Pussycats is the best movie ever!" are quickly flashed up on the screen and read out by Mr. Moviefone, with the words "Join the Army" in smaller print below. That example is really more superliminal. But for a true example, in the scene where Fiona explains the goal of MegaRecords, the message "Can't Hardly Wait is under-rated" scrolls by on the wall in the background. Both this film and Can't Hardly Wait were written and directed by Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfont. Roger Ebert took the film to task for calling the hidden messages "subliminal" when they are in fact subaural.
- Take That, Audience!: You know, it takes real guts to make a film where the whole freakin' plot is about how your audience is full of brainwashed idiots who are incapable of thinking for themselves.
- Take Our Word for It: We never actually see Du Jour getting their asses kicked at the Metallica concert, but judging by the full-body casts that're wearing (except for the guy who knew the words to "Enter Sandman" — and even he's pretty messed up), we can only guess what happened.
- Token Romance: Alan M and Josie really do seem tacked onto the movie as an afterthought.
- Verbal Backpedaling: Became an Overly Long Gag with Fiona.
- Vehicular Kidnapping: After discovering a cynical girl in the record store that seems immune to Mega Records' brainwashing, Wyatt none too subtly intones "Smells like teen spirit" into his jacket sleeve. Moments later, an overhead door flies open, the cynical girl gets grabbed by nameless mooks and tossed into a waiting van, and is then driven away. She's never seen or heard from again in the film.
- Waxing Lyrical: Wyatt's codephrases are lines from famous songs:
- Weak-Willed: While all of the Pussycats (and everyone else exposed) falls for the subliminal messages very easily, Melody goes the extra mile. After a few seconds exposure:Melody: I want a Big Mac!
Valerie: But, Mel, you're a vegetarian.
Melody: I know, but suddenly I want one!