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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. The film was a box office failure, and its lack of success did lasting damage to Rachael Leigh Cook's film career (as of 2010 she has yet to play the lead role in another major film; keep in mind that this is the same Rachael Leigh Cook who voiced Tifa), but it has become something of a cult hit on VHS and DVD.
This movie provides examples of the following tropes:
- 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."
- 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.
- 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: Dujour, previously thought to be dead in a plane crash, at the end.
- Boy Band: Dujour is a parody of boy bands.
- Brainwashed: The evil executives use Subliminal Seduction to brainwash Josie and turn her into a bitchy diva.
- Concert Kiss
- 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 his.
- Completely Missing the Point: Many film critics complained about the Product Placement, clearly missing that they were intended as a parody of intrusive product placement in films.
- 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.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: Dujour'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 Laugh
- Fake Nationality: 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. The added fact that she is the black one gives another unpleasant layer to the situation.
- 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 Dujour 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 pornstars.
- The signs that Melody holds to promote the band leads to a car crash when the "cats" in Pussycats gets blocked.
- "Backdoor Lover". That is all.
- There's also a scene where Fiona wipes a suspicious looking white powdery substance off her desk.
- 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.
- Live Action Adaptation
- Mass Hypnosis
- 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: Dujour. 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.
- Product Placement: Parodied by way of cranking it Up to Eleven.
- Reunion Revenge: While no Class Reunion has ever been 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.
- Rock Trio
- She Fu: Melodie surprises everybody during the climactic fight scene.
- She Knows Too Much
- Stealth Parody
- 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.
- Take Our Word for It: We never actually see Dujour getting their asses kicked at the Metallica concert, but judging by the full-body casts that most of them are 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.
- 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!"