Review by MrBrown
½ star out of 4
OK, I admit it--I find camp amusement with the Spice Girls. Yes, the same
Spice Girls of the gimmicky individual "identities," they of the annoyingly
infectious bubblegum pop hooks and cheesy unifying mantra of "Girl Power."
But not even their guilty pleasure appeal isn't enough to carry their big
screen debut, a junky mess which would be more aptly named Shite World than
The film begins amusingly enough, with a cheeky 007-esque title sequence
in which the British quintet--"Scary" (Melanie Brown), "Baby" (Emma
Bunton), "Sporty" (Melanie Chisolm), "Ginger" (Geri Halliwell), and "Posh"
(Victoria Adams)--are introduced one by one (to, much to my surprise,
excited and only slightly mocking cheers from the press audience) as they
croon the silky ballad "Too Much" (a tune that would sound right at home in
an actual James Bond film). A few minutes and an Elton John cameo later
comes an introductory tour of the numerous plotlines that run through the
film: (1) the Spicy ones go on a European publicity tour leading up to
their first live concert at London's Royal Albert Hall; (2) a film producer
(George Wendt) and a screenwriter (Mark McKinney) pitch various film ideas
to the Girls' manager, Clifford (Richard E. Grant); (3) a documentary film
crew follows the Girls; (4) a pregnant "mate" (Naoki Mori) of the group
rapidly approaches her due date; and (5) a tabloid publisher (Barry
Humphries) attempts to destroy the group with the help of a sneaky
shutterbug (Richard O'Brien). Capped off by a live rendition of the Girls'
bouncy hit "Say You'll Be There," a wealth of laughs and merriment is sure
to follow, right?
Wrong. It's all downhill from there as Spice World collapses into a
series of misfired comedy sketches. I must give the Girls credit for their
refreshing willingness to make fun of themselves, but writer Kim Fuller and
director Bob Spiers can barely come up with a funny joke between them, much
less a organized framework for all the "wacky" goings-on. Spice World
jumps from vignette to vignette, subplot to subplot with no direction and
little sense, at one minute having the Girls meet with aliens (no joke) and
at another having them stage a daring rescue of two young fans who fall
into the water during a boat ride. While a decent joke slips through the
cracks here and there--during a "dance bootcamp" scene, the Girls sing the
lyric "We know how we got this far/Strength and courage and a
Wonderbra"--much of the material is not even funny on the chuckle level.
Some gags are just plain pointless, such as Roger Moore's recurring role as
the mysterious Chief, who dispenses cryptic, metaphor-heavy advice to
Clifford. The only reason why I can think anyone would find that funny is
the fact that Moore once played James Bond. Ha ha.
As weak as the script is, I think there's one insurmountable problem with
even attempting to make a Spice Girls movie, and that is the Girls
themselves. The point is not that they can't act (and, for the record,
they really _can't_) but that their individual personas, which works as a
gimmick over the span of a four-minute music video, are too thin to survive
outside of the truncated, video bite MTV world. Posh (who garnered the
most enthusiastic cheers during the introductions) comes off best by
default because her persona (rich bitch) most easily translates into
character in a film. Baby's persona (young innocent), to a lesser extent,
also works, but the remaining Girls' identities are a little harder to
flesh out. There really isn't much to do with Sporty besides having her
exercise every so often (which is _exactly_ what Fuller and Spiers do),
and, after all, what exactly entails being "Ginger" or "Scary"?
Apparently, just their wardrobes.
Spice World manages to pick up some steam in the late going following a
flashback performance of the Spices' signature hit, "Wannabe." The song is
as grating as ever, but the energy of the number gives the proceedings a
much-needed shot in the arm, setting the stage for a wave of
self-referential humor stemmed from the screenwriters' film ideas (the film
almost mirrors Robert Altman's The Player in the way the film snails into
itself). This section of the film, involving all manner of derring-do
involving a speeding bus, is perhaps its most effective, but it also points
up how all the other storylines (the publisher, the documentary crew) lack
a satisfactory payoff.
Spice World is harmless entertainment suitable for the entire family, and
it will please the Spice faithful. But this sloppy enterprise surely won't
win them any new fans, which is what the group sorely needs to bolster its
rapidly waning Girl Power in the States. Once the hype disappears, Spice
World will likely serve as the the Spices' final hurrah in America.