According to Eric Schlosser in Fast Food Nation, large corporations have now started placing ads for their products in schools. For $12,000 a company can get five school bus ads, hallway ads, a stadium banner, promotions in school newspapers, and free tickets to high school sporting events. It seems the corporations are not satisfied only marketing to kids through toys, cartoons, movies, videos, charities, amusement parks, contests, sweepstakes, games, television, radio, magazines, and the Internet.
This depressing cultural development serves as a reality check before you see Josie and the Pussycats. This film, directed by Harry Elfont and Deborah Kaplan, is a pop satire based on a TV cartoon series inspired by an Archie comics series. Okay, now that we've got that bit of recycling straight, let's get down to business!
After DuJour, a four-member superstar band, finds out that someone's trying to use their music for a nefarious purpose, they are done away with by an oily record company executive, Wyatt Frame (Alan Cumming). He arrives in Riverdale, New York, looking for a new pop group to manipulate. Singer and guitarist Josie McCoy (Rachel Leigh Cook), drummer Melody Valentine (Tara Reid), and bassist Valerie Brown (Rosario Dawson) are thrilled when he signs them with Mega Records. Up until then, they had only been able to get gigs at bowling alleys.
Overnight Josie and the Pussycats are transformed into pop music celebrities as a mammoth marketing campaign turns a single into a hit and they're profiled in Rolling Stone. The mastermind creating their success is Fiona (Parker Posey), the wheeler-dealer CEO of Mega Records. Behind the songs by Josie and the Pussycats are subliminal product endorsements and other messages conducive to big sales for every corporation imaginable. The teenage fans are brainwashed to purchase brand name shoes, sweatshirts, and sodas.
The movie itself is a bubbly, insipid confection that goes down like a _______ (fill in the product of your choice). Of course, even though mega corporations are put down in the drama for their crass manipulation of kids, Josie and the Pussycats is a product-placement dream come true. Will the teenagers who see this satire get its message or will they just discover some new goodies to buy? Let's not even try to answer that one.