Not so fine felines

Misplaced nostalgia brings TV 'toon to the big screen.

MAMAS, DON'T LET your babies grow up to be pussycats. A disaster for all the wrong reasons, this feature-length update of the semicool 1970-72 cartoon rips the treacly "Girl Power" guts out of Spice World and attempts to infuse them with the vibrant physicality of another recent remake, Charlie's Angels. The result tries so hard to give young girls a positive message that it forgets two essential keys to success: a) Walk the feminist talk, and b) Get Drew Barrymore on deck.

JOSIE AND THE PUSSYCATS

directed by Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfont with Rachel Leigh Cook, Tara Reid, and Rosario Dawson opens April 11 at Metro and others

Josie is a ratty-haired waif eager to nudge her three-piece rock band into the big time, but they're stuck playing divey bowling alleys because pre-fab pop groups rule the charts. Get it? It's just like real life, where earnest, hardworking bands are forced to eat Top Ramen while Britney Spears is up to her pierced navel in cash. A twist of fate lands Josie (the cute but forgettable Rachel Leigh Cook of She's All That) and her band a deal with evil MegaRecords after the demise of its hottest group (the 'N Sync-like Dujour). The trio rockets to fame thanks to the nefarious company, which secretly manipulates Josie's songs to brainwash the nation's youth into buying more junk.

Oddly, Josie is so obsessed with its coy anti-consumerist message that it completely fails to address its intended massive teen audience. Dirty in-jokes further muddy the picture's appeal as a pro-girl vehicle: A "Honk if you like Pussycats" sign has the "cats" part hidden behind a tree, while Dujour's No. 1 song is the nudgingly named "Backdoor Lover."

Jabs at MTV's Carson Daly—sent to murder bandmate Melody (Tara Reid) in one truly brilliant segment—along with MegaRecords' bitingly accurate marketing subliminals ("Heath Ledger is the new Matt Damon!") elicit a few laughs, but Josie finally crumbles into a wash of garbled drama, bloated budgets, and overexposed colors. In short, it's just like a 95-minute version of the Super Bowl half-time show.

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