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Review: Soured on 'Spice World'

scenes from

From Reviewer Paul Tatara

Phe-nom-e|non -- n. That which is forced down our throats by people in suits, in order to make money

When the Spice Girls phenomenon first crawled from the primordial ooze of popular culture, I boldly decided that I wouldn't be wasting any brain cells on this one, thank you very much. Being a disciple of the Dylan, Lennon, Springsteen school of rock 'n' roll saviorhood, I quickly surmised that a team of near-incompetents dolled up like Eighth Avenue hookers wouldn't be worth my energy. So, for well over a year now, the Spice Girls have not existed in Paul World. They're out there. I've seen pictures of them. Leave me alone. I don't care.

Well, I'm sorry to say I've had to break my Spice fast. The Girls' new movie, "Spice World," tries to render itself critic-proof by having the ladies periodically point out that they're barely teachable charlatans of minuscule talent, but everyone involved in this sorry venture is sadly mistaken if they think they're getting off that easy. When was it decided that blatantly admitting you're pulling the wool over the eyeballs of 8-year-old girls around the globe is an admirable stance? Where was I when we voted on this?

The Girls have supposedly funny names and supposedly distinctive personalities, but, aside from the little blonde one who actually possesses something resembling a sense of comic timing, they're all Big Macs in push-up bras to me. I managed to watch the entire movie and came to only two definite conclusions about the Spice Girls themselves: they should save all that money and there are five of them. The problem is, that's all they're actually trying to prove. (To be honest, I do remember that Scary Spice is aptly named, what with her hellish resemblance, in voice and person, to Downtown Julie Brown.)

"What's the plot?" you may be asking. Well so am I. One of the opening credits says "based on an idea by the Spice Girls," but this should in no way be confused with "based on an idea by Robert Oppenheimer."

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Basically, this is five days in the life of a famous pop group, which is such an original concept, The Beatles already did it with "A Hard Day's Night" 34 years ago. Of course, John, Paul, George, and Ringo are just a little bit more fun to watch (and listen to) than "Sloth," "Avarice," "Sleazy," and "Marketing" Spice, but second-graders don't know that, and, isn't that the theme of this chamber piece anyway? It should also be pointed out that director Bob Spiers is no Richard Lester, and, what the hell, that Dan Quayle is no Jack Kennedy. Are we standing on a downward incline or what?

The Girls sing creamy milkshake-type songs that are no better or worse than 80 percent of what gets played on the radio every single day of the week, but, again, does that make this stuff of any discernible value or interest? I know what a lot of you are thinking. I'm being too critical. Don't I understand that this is just a lark? What's wrong with a little simple-minded entertainment? Well, nothing at all, if it weren't for the fact that simple-minded larks are the rule nowadays, not an occasional mind-deadener to help you forget your troubling day. Half the folks who think I'm being too hard on the movie haven't challenged themselves since the last time they tried to parallel park, so how can they pretend that this thing is some sort of dunder-headed aberration? Go to the video store and check out the dust that's gathering on the copies of "Citizen Kane," "Red River," "Bonnie and Clyde," and "Lost in America," for that matter. It sure is hard to get your hands on "Dumb and Dumber," though, isn't it?

The Girls ride around on a fancy bus that contains a swing-set and a big couch that looks like a pair of lips. They rehearse and do shows and get chased by a guy who's trying to ruin their career in order to get some new information on them for the tabloids. There are cameo appearances by Jennifer Saunders, Roger Moore, Elton John, and Elvis Costello (a former hero of mine) among several others, and all I can think is that there was someone just out of camera range holding a gun on them.

Now run out and see it. You need a break from the intellectualism of Jerry Springer and Urkel.

"Spice World" does not contain a final, bloody shootout involving the Girls, much to my dismay. It's buffed and polished and pre-digested for the drooling pre-teen. The ladies like to hold two fingers aloft, which is either a cry for peace or yet another reminder of just how many breasts they each have. Rated PG. 93 minutes.

 
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