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IN SHORT: Herman's Hermits made a movie, too.
In Spice World, the still flashing-in-the-pan pop stars The Spice Girls securely put their manufactured images as Sporty, Posh, Scarey, Baby and Ginger behind them and, as Mel C., Victoria, Mel B., Emma and Geri, confidently step off the edge of cliff and plummet back to reality. The question is, are there enough kidlet fans to invoke Girl Power and surprise all of us grownups that don't get it?
The first things you see in Spice World are ultra close-up shots of the Girls' faces. Cranky can honestly report that, at 20 or so feet high, the sight of a pierced tongue is indeed downright Scarey. So, too, are the 20 seconds or so Elton John appears on screen and the cameo appearances by once upon a time significant pop stars like Bob Geldof of the Boomtown Rats and Elvis Costello. Meat Loaf, whose first film outing was the equally bad (but successfully cultish) Rocky Horror Picture Show, has a role as the driver of a Union Jack painted double decker bus, in which the Girls live out their high pressure fantasy lives as mega-pop stars. You'd think that riding around London in such a fine target would have zillions of frothing at the mouth fans out in force. The operative word is "fantasy" and them fans show up only on cue.
Let's repeat once again Cranky's ground rules here: watch the target audience. In this case it's 9 - 13-year-old girls, including the two nieces and a friend Cranky lugged along to the sneak preview. Cranky's also got a 30-something female pal who plays the first SG album nonstop, but she wasn't available. Sitting behind us was a quartet of teenboys, all of whom spent the requisite amount of time dissing the Girls and an equal amount of time drooling over Baby and Ginger once the lights went down.
They're nuts. Posh (Victoria) is the cute one.
OK, on with this old fogey's take on Spice World. In one word: "feh". What Spice World wants to be being some sort of cross between The Brady Bunch, with all sorts of sly pop-cultural references built into the dialog and sight gags, and The Force of all pop star movies, A Hard Days Night. Spice World comes off more as a cross between Brady Bunch 2 and Magical Mystery Tour. The Beatles, at least, can blame the drugs for MMT's awfulness and, despite the drugs, turned out a decent soundtrack. The hits are here but only one new song kicks butt. It features the girls chanting "Come ON Come ON" and it's not on either Spice album. My nieces can't ID it and the clerk at my local record store says there's no soundtrack but Cranky doubts that the market machine behind the Girls would slip on that one.
As for the rest of it, Cranky admits that he's got no problems with the first CD, but the reprise of "Wannabe," the biggest hit is pumped out of a boom box and sounds like crap. That is a deliberate choice on the part of the film makers as all the other lip-synchs are crystal clear. It is a stupid choice.
As for the story, hell if I know. The pop star Spice Girls (you have to know this going in) are preparing for their first ever live concert, at London's Albert Hall. There's a tabloid magazine which has decided to trash their good reputations by siccing an undercover paparazzo on them. There's a Hollywood producer (George Wendt) who wants to make a movie with them. There's a manager (Richard E. Grant, overacting up a storm) who is constantly stressed out and his mysterious "Chief" (Roger Moore) parodies almost anything James Bond-ish you can imagine. Dennis (Loaf) drives the fantasy bus. There's a pregnant friend , an appearance by aliens of the E.T. kind and half a dozen or so fantasy sequences.
Spice World makes little sense. Sitting through it, if you're not a nine-year-old, is painful. For the fans, Spice World rates a $3 on Cranky's scale 'cuz, as 9-year-old Jana put it, "[Spice World was] really really good" and "it'll be out on video in six months." She also said the Spice Girls would be "over in a year".
Cranky used to work in the music biz, and he ain't gonna make that kind of a statement. He's seen the dead come back too many times.
For the rest of us grownups, on average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price for Spice World, he would have paid . . .
If you like the music, buy and listen and enjoy the CDs. You are not going to enjoy Spice World, the movie.
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