Josie and the Pussycats [2001]

"Oh my God, I'm a trend pimp!" cries rocker Josie McCoy (Rachel Leigh Cook) when she discovers that she and her best friends Melody (Tara Reid) and Val (Rosario Dawson)--collectively known as the Pussycats--have been recruited in a plot to brainwash America's youth into a frenzy of mindless consumerism. Unbeknownst to the Pussycats, subliminal messages in their chart-topping hit "Pretend to Be Nice" are forcing kids to follow the latest prefab trends as if their lives depended on it. Josie's going to be the Next Big Thing, and to her manager (Alan Cumming) and Megarecords mogul Fiona (Parker Posey), the other Pussycats are expendable baggage in their scheme to dictate the cool quotient of teenagers everywhere. Shrewdly concocted by codirectors Harry Elfont and Deborah Kaplan, this wildly comedic update of the Archie comic book (and early-'70s cartoon show) is a deliriously entertaining assault on pop-cultural flotsam, with a disposable boy-band (aptly named "Du Jour") and cross-product marketing ploys that perpetuate blind conformity among gullible teens. Blatant product placements dominate virtually every colorful scene as Josie gamely embraces the cultural blight it claims to criticize, but this isn't Hollywood hypocrisy. Elfont and Kaplan willfully bite the hand that feeds them, and they're having loads of fun while advocating independent opinion. Cook and her pals are more honestly sexy than Britney Spears, and they make genuinely catchy music (although Cook's vocals were dubbed). It's pure fluff, but Josie and the Pussycats was conceived in such high spirits that it's hard to imagine how it could be improved. Even the obligatory end-credit outtakes are utterly irresistible. --Jeff Shannon

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