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Film / Josie and the Pussycats (2001)
aka: Josie And The Pussycats

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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:

  • Adapted Out: No other Archie Comics characters appear, though weirdly the Pussycats' hometown is Riverdale (as opposed to the comics, where they lived in the nearby town of Midvale).
  • Alpha Bitch: The unnamed ringleader of the Girl Posse who harasses Josie, Melody and Valerie early in the film, only to show up as (likely brainwashed) fans later on. Alexandra isn't this, however, since she apparently has no friends other than her brother and only makes the catty remarks out of jealousy.
  • 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."
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  • And Your Little Dog, Too!: The Metallica fans even beat up Du Jour's monkey!
  • Art Shift: During the short where Eugene Levy explains how the mass brainwashing works, it shifts into 2D animation to demonstrate.
  • As Himself: MTV VJs Carson Daly and Aries Spears make a brief appearance where they try 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. Entertainment Tonight reporter Jann Carl also appears at the beginning interviewing Du Jour.
  • Aside Glance: Upon 'discovering' the Pussycats, Wyatt gives one of the smuggest Aside Glances in cinematic history.
  • Bandage Mummy: Du Jour shows up at the end having survived the plane crash... albeit horribly, horribly injured. Though it wasn't the crash that caused the injuries, they landed the plane safely.... in the parking lot of a Metallica concert. The lead singer is the only one not in a full body cast, and that was only because he knew the lyrics to Metallica's "Enter Sandman". When they attempt to stop Fiona's plot, they can barely move and one of them gets knocked over.
  • Beautiful All Along: Inverted. The diva-ish record executive 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.
  • Been There, Shaped History: Fiona implies that the countless musical acts who've retired, died or left their bands are cover stories for the musicians finding out about the conspiracy and then being killed or otherwise taken care of to prevent them from spreading the truth; they even created Behind the Music to explain the cover stories further.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Du Jour, previously thought to be dead in a plane crash, at the end. Subverted since, given they're badly injured, they can't really do anything, though their arrival does distract Fiona and Wyatt long enough to give Josie an opportunity to free Mel and Val.
  • 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.
  • But Not Too Black: Valerie is a dark-skinned black girl in the original comic and animated television series. Here, she is portrayed by the light-skinned Afro-Latina actress Rosario Dawson.
  • Cool Loser: The Pussycats at the beginning of the film. Yes, that's right. Rachael Leigh Cook, Rosario Dawson and Tara Reid are presented as unpopular. Gotta love Hollywood.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Fiona.
  • Creator Cameo: Director Harry Elfont is Lex, Wyatt's pilot who ditched Du Jour's plane early in the movie, and is later seen piloting the jet taking Josie and crew to New York.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Melody unexpectedly turns out to be an amazing martial artist.
  • Cult Soundtrack: The soundtrack to the film, an affectionate pastiche of Power Pop, Pop Punk, and Boy Band tropes, is nowadays arguably more famous than the film itself.
  • Cut-and-Paste Suburb: Josie lives in one of these, though her house is painted much differently and appears to not have an actual driveway. Almost everyone there appears to have the same brown Ford Explorer.
  • 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.
    • She also notes that she got a chill up her spine when interacting with Fiona, and her perception is completely true.
  • 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".
  • Elaborate Underground Base: Megarecords has one to determine all the latest trends and handle all the product placement. It's accessed when Fiona hits hidden buttons in her zen garden, causing her entire office to somehow travel down like an elevator.
  • 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.
  • Fanservice Car Wash: The girls first hit on the Billboard chart is "Three Small Words", which has an accompanying music video that shows Josie, Melody and Valerie lathering up a nice car on a soundstage
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Hidden Depths: Most of the members of Du Jour seem to have these: DJ's apparently into meditation, while Marco named his monkey Dr. Zaius (after a character from Planet of the Apes). Les only survived the group's mass beatdown by the Metallica fans thanks to knowing the lyrics to "Enter Sandman" by heart.
  • Hotter and Sexier: Their outfits are just a tad hotter than one-piece swimsuits and leopard tights.
  • Invisible Parents: No parents in sight for any of the band members. It seems the girls are out of high school at least, but it's not clear if the house they're seen living in at the beginning is in fact theirs or not.
  • 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: Of the Hanna-Barbera Saturday morning cartoon series, which is the Animated Adaptation of the teen comic book title.
  • The Load: Alexandra, who doesn't do anything but tag along with her brother for unclear reasons; see below for her response. Josie ends up recruiting her to help after the Plot-Mandated Friendship Failure for lack of any other options.
  • Logo Joke: Depending on the region, the Universal globe turns into a tongue piercing on a screaming fan, or the MGM lion turns into said fan.
  • Meaningful Name: Du Jour, the band of the day.
  • Music Is Politics: The movie in general parodies this — not willing to go along with brainwashing America's youth, or at least discover the hidden subliminal messages in your music? You'll be caught in a plane or car crash, have your friends kidnapped, etc.
  • 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.
  • Only One Name: Fiona doesn't seem to have a last name. Technically it's Snyder, but her alias seems to lack one.
  • Only Sane Man: As the opening scene would indicate, Les seems to be the only member of Du Jour who has his head on straight, given his lack of fighting with the other three. This is exemplified by being the only band member to avoid being put in a body cast by the Metallica fans.
  • Pair the Spares: Alexandra with Du Jour's lead singer Les.
  • Plot-Mandated Friendship Failure: An Enforced Trope, to keep the Pussycats from catching on like Du Jour did to the mass-brainwashing scheme.
  • Product Placement: Parodied by way of cranking it up to eleven. This blog that keeps track of this trope in different films and series counts 109 instances of product placement in this single movie.
    • It turns out to be a major plot point because, as also (partly) explained in Subliminal Advertising below, the United States government has conspired with the music industry to add subliminal messages as backing tracks to pop music in order to brainwash teenagers into buying consumer products (and other things, like how "there's no such place as Area 51"), hence the over-the-top array of Product Placement throughout the film.
  • Reunion Revenge: While no Class Reunion is featured in the film, when the girls who usually mocked Josie and her friends started worshiping them, Wyatt told them most people had to wait 10 years for that kind of revenge.
  • Rock is Authentic, Pop is Shallow: The entire film is a Take That! towards the music industry and manufactured pop music (and it some cases, itself); the struggling Pussycats band gets the record deal of the lifetime but they have their music laden with subliminal messages and commercials. Ironic considering that the Josie and the Pussycats version everyone is familiar with is bubblegum pop through and through.
  • Ruder and Cruder: Josie and the Pussycats is cruder than the source material, with jokes relating to the word "pussy" heard in the film. It's a sharp turn from the comic, which was an all-ages title from Archie Comics.
  • She-Fu: Melody surprises everybody during the climactic fight scene.
  • She Knows Too Much: Fiona and Wyatt do this to Du Jour and prepare to do this to the Pussycats. When Fiona explains the mass-brainwashing scheme to her tour group she states that the industry has been doing this for years — they even created Behind the Music to explain the cover stories.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Subliminal Advertising: The record company is putting subliminal messages into music in order to sell consumer products.
    • For example, in the scene where Fiona explains the goal of MegaRecords, the message "Can't Hardly Wait was under-rated" scrolls by, superimposed in the foreground. Both this film and Can't Hardly Wait were written and directed by Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfont. Other messages include "This movie is brilliant" and "Are you thinking disposable?"
    • 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.note 
  • 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 they'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. It may all be part of the parody, though.
  • 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 later seen as an uwilling test subject for the headphones to be used during Josie's concert to brainwash the audience.
  • Waxing Lyrical: Wyatt's code phrases are lines from famous songs:
    • "Take the chevy to the levee" is a line from "AmericanPie" by DonMcLean.
    • "Smells like teen spirit" is the title of Nirvana's best known song.
  • 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!

Alternative Title(s): Josie And The Pussycats