SpiceWorld the Movie Also Known As:
Five (1997) (UK) (working title)
Five Girls (1997) (UK) (working title)
Its Been a Hard 15 Minutes (1997) (UK) (working title)
Spice Girls (1997) (UK) (working title)
Spice Girls: The Movie (1997) (UK) (working title)
Spice Up Your Life! (1997/II) (UK) (working title)
Spice: The Movie (1997) (UK) (working title)
Runtime: 93 min
Color: Color (Technicolor)
Sound Mix: Dolby Digital / SDDS
Review by Lori Leibovich:
DESPITE THEIR trademark mantra “Girl Power,” the Spice Girls’ new film, “Spice World,” is less a call to female empowerment than it is a device to A) show Spice Girl tits, B) show Spice Girl ass and C) showcase the bouncy British babes singing their bubble-gum hits. The film is a kitschy faux-documentary about the Girls’ meteoric rise to fame and the various people who try to help/hinder them along the way. Of course, thrown into the mix of flesh and fantasia are various declarations of Wonderbra feminism – peace, love and clothes! – but such gestures aren’t enough to make “Spice World” seem like anything more than one long, convoluted music video.
Originally conceived by a British father-son music management team, the Spice Girls burst onto the international pop music scene two years ago and immediately captured the imagination and wallets of legions of mostly young, mostly female fans. Worried that their managers might not be up to the task of total world domination, the Girls dumped them (yes, this is still real life) and endeavored to deliver their spunky message to the largest audience possible.
The “Girl Power” publicity machine was humming long before the lights dimmed at the San Francisco “Spice World” screening. Twelve-year-old girls rushed the stage as flacks dangled Spicy gifts – Spice pencils, Spice posters, Spice T-shirts, Spice CDs – before the kids’ eager faces. “Hey, I neeeeeeeeeed one!” screeched one girl from the balcony. In lieu of previews, an MC coordinated a Spice wave throughout the theater, as every fan undulated to the Spice Girl beat. The pre-game festivities were the perfect segue into “Spice World” – which, in essence, is one big pep rally for the group.
The movie opens with the camera following the gabbing girls as they make their way through a labyrinth of backstage corridors after a show. They stop for a moment to air-kiss Elton John before they are greeted outside by thousands of ecstatic Spice fans. They sign several autographs before boarding their very own sorority house on wheels – the Spicemobile, a double-decker bus driven by classic rocker Meatloaf and emblazoned with the Union Jack. In a scene torn from the pages of a women’s magazine, the girls are shown reading their horoscopes, arguing over clothes and getting into a cat fight. From there we accompany the Girls as they cavort about London and cope with various misadventures on their way to their debut live performance at the Royal Albert Hall.
Implicit in the Spice Girls’ “Girl Power” message is a reminder to “Be Yourself!” It’s a no-brainer then that the Spices – Mel C. (Sporty), Mel B. (Scary), Geri (Ginger), Victoria (Posh) and Emma (Baby) – would use their screen debut to flesh out their Spice identities. Posh Spice sports a perpetual pout and labors over which of her many Gucci dresses to wear; Sporty Spice pumps iron, sprints after crooks, rides her stationary bike and generally looks buff; Baby Spice sucks on lollipops and frolics with stuffed animals (“I’m always going to be Baby Spice,” she insists. “Even when I’m 30!”); Ginger acts ditsy, while Scary proves she’s one mouthy broad. In one typical scene, the girls decide to dress up like each other and scramble their Spice personas – suddenly Baby Spice is Posh Spice and Posh Spice is Scary Spice and – well, you get the idea. In the end, the girls decide that they are most comfortable as themselves (there’s a message in here somewhere, kids) – and besides, Sporty would never trade her Adidas for Posh’s spike heels! At the very least, the movie provides a stage for the girls to showcase their wacky wardrobes. Remember the Solid Gold dancers? Substitute gold lam for neon Lycra and you’ve got the Spice look.
Is there a plot sandwiched between the numerous costume changes? Actually, there are several non sequitur subplots woven together – and that, along with a dearth of acting talent, is “Spice World’s” biggest flaw. The jumbled story line pivots around the dubious intentions of several caricatures – each of whom, ironically, represents an arm of the Evil Media. There’s the editor of a British tabloid who hires a daredevil reporter to catch the Girls doing naughty, unspicelike things; a documentarian who follows the Girls in order to capture the “essence” of Spice; and a smarmy Hollywood producer (George Wendt), who tries to pitch a Spice Girl movie to the Girls’ rigid (and very unspicy) manager, Clifford (Richard Grant). Roger Moore, in a role reminiscent of the omnipotent Charlie from “Charlie’s Angels,” plays “The Chief,” a record company executive who wears silk robes and ascots, strokes baby animals and dispenses Eastern philosophy while keeping a constant eye on his Girls.
Another subplot involves honorary Spice Girl Nicola (Naoko Mori), the girls’ best mate, who has been knocked up by her deadbeat boyfriend. When Nicola asks the girls to be godmothers to her baby, Posh wants to know: “Do godmothers get stretch marks?” In the midst of all this, the girls bump into some aliens when they go into the woods to pee – but thankfully, all the extraterrestrials want is to snap a few photos and cop a feel.
Fame and fortune isn’t without its lonely moments, however, and the Girls both sentimentalize their past and fantasize about their future in dozens of flashback (the Girls before their big break) and flash-forward (the Girls as mums) sequences. “In the old days, it was, ‘Where is our next meal coming from?'” one of the Girls wistfully recalls. “Now it’s ‘Where is our single going?'”
The Spice Girls certainly put their money where their motto is. When they get into a tiff with their manager over their professional priorities, Scary spits out, “Self-respect, freedom and friendship are more important than a gig!” And when Spice friend Nicola is in labor, the girls are right at their pal’s bedside. As Nicola grunts, groans and finally delivers a – you guessed it! – girl, the Spice Girls chime, “Now that’s Girl Power!”
I don’t understand the appeal of the Spice Girls as women, role models or actresses, but then I’m not 9 years old. But I do know this: The whole theater – kids, teens, adults (and yeah, maybe even a critic) – was tapping feet to the Spice Girls’ catchy sounds. When I asked the 12-year-old girl sitting next to me what “Girl Power” meant to her, she said: “It’s a saying for the ’90s – it means that girls have freedom and they can do anything.” Sounds good – but will it carry her through to 30?
Review by Screenit.com
One of the lines from the song, “Wannabe” goes something like this: “So tell me what you want, what you really, really want…” Well, if you’re a fan of the Spice Girls, what you really, really want is to see as much of this British pop quintet as possible. Storming out of her Majesty’s land and across the world with their first two albums, they’ve been called the next big thing and have been compared to the Beatles (but so was the 1970’s band “The Knack” – c’mon you remember them, don’t you?). Whether you agree with that depends on your musical taste and definition of “musicians,” but there’s no denying they’re a pop phenomenon. Although it’s questionable how long they’ll remain big, their debut film, “Spice World,” will no doubt please their fans.
Less a movie than a loosely assembled collection of them performing songs surrounded by mostly unimaginative “skits,” this is something you’d expect more to see on MTV than in your local multiplex. While their fans will undoubtably flock to the theaters to see their larger than life idols being, well, larger than life up on the silver screen, this film will generate little if any crossover appeal to mainstream moviegoers.
Part of that can be attributed to the fact that most everyone understands that they can’t act (they were initially hired as Spice Girls for having attitudes and not necessarily musical or acting talent). Fortunately for them – and for us – they don’t attempt to do any of that, and instead simply play themselves. That’s a smart move, and they even make fun of that by having a character comment on their lack of acting skills by asking if anyone cared that Marilyn Monroe couldn’t act. While many musicians have tried to cross over onto the big screen, few have successfully made it. Even the fabulous Beatles couldn’t act themselves out of a corner – but they still appeared in several films. Thus, I suppose, the Girls get their chance.
Luckily the self-deprecation route is the road the Spice Girls haven chosen to take, and at least that makes the movie bearable to sit through. A rather brief funny scene involves the girls in court where they’ve been charged with releasing a single that not as “kickin'” as their early efforts. Sentenced to having the song debut above the one hundred and sixtieth spot on the charts, the girls’ future is ruined and they’re resigned to appearing on Taiwanese talk shows. We also get to see the girls’ three-story high tour bus that pokes fun at the creature comforts musicians have on the road – there’s a swing, separate “living” quarters, and even a modeling runway strip. And we get to see the girls playing chess (another joke) and dressing up like the characters from “Grease,” “Wonder Woman,” and “Charlie’s Angels” in a less than inspired montage.
Such moments are rather odd since few of their teenage fans will even know anything about the latter mentioned show, nor will they identify most of the celebrities making cameos. They’ll obviously recognize Elton John, but probably won’t know musicians Elvis Costello and Bob Geldoff, or actor Bob Hoskins (best known stateside as the human lead in “Who Framed Roger Rabbit”).
The biggest cameo role goes to Roger Moore, who does a spin on his old James Bond persona. Instead of playing 007 (but still making the obligatory martini-related joke), he plays a Blofeld- like character (the bald man with the Persian kitty from the Sean Connery Bond films) with a penchant for stroking cats (and then rabbits and finally pigs). Given some mysterious, cryptogrammic lines to deliver (“The headless chicken can only know where he’s been. He cannot see where he’s going…”), his appearance is initially funny, but soon wears thin. Like the other cameos, they’re obviously aimed at the adults in the crowd, but aren’t clever enough to make you glad you’re there.
Beyond the Spice Girls playing themselves, the rest of the performers play nothing more than caricatures (and not much more is expected from the cast in a film like this). Richard E. Grant plays the overbearing stage manager whose oppressive behavior causes a mini girl power rebellion, all of which is especially telling since the girls recently gave their real life manager the boot.
As far as any plot goes, it’s paper thin and merely serves as a truly bare-bones “skeleton” upon which to hang the musical performances. A subplot dealing with a TV crew trying to cover the girls for a documentary is rarely funny and more annoying than anything else. Another that features George Wendt (Norm from TV’s “Cheers”) as a film maker who hires a writer to come up with some ideas for a Spice Girl film has a few funny moments. Unfortunately, however, the real-life incarnation of that went with the weakest idea and resulted in this film.
Penned by Kim Fuller (making her feature film screenwriting debut) from an “idea” by the Spice Girls themselves, and directed by Bob Spiers (who made his debut last year with the inane remake of “That Darn Cat”), this film has a few decent moments (such as when a worldwide religious controversy erupts after the girls are asked if they like boys and they respond by stating, “Is the Pope Catholic?”). Others, however, are odd – an encounter with space aliens who want the girls’ autographs – to blatant ripoffs – a military dance instructor trying to teach the girls how to dance is just a weak imitation of a Monty Python skit that featured John Cleese.
Obviously fans of the Spice Girls won’t care what any critics (Screen It included) have to say about this film. They’ll get to see their five idols goofing around, exuding “girl power” and performing most of their signature songs that, quite surprisingly, are staged and filmed without much vigor. Even so, the girls are certainly filled with youthful pep and definitely have an on screen charisma that plays to their advantage. They should, however, stick with making music videos and leave the big screen to others better equipped at telling stories.
For that’s what movie making is all about, and this film barely manages to tell a story at all. Shot in a very short amount of time (no surprise there) and sporting a rather low budget look, the film – if viewed as a long music video – comes off as a passable, but ultimately unimaginative look at the group.
Review by Lyndsey Parker
January 22, 1998. It was the monumental day when the Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky scandal broke wide open and the Unabomber agreed to a “guilty” plea-bargain. But that was all second-page news to the hundreds, possibly thousands, of giddy pre-preteen girls perched on the bleachers lining Hollywood Blvd. Something far more important, far more newsworthy, was afoot – like the Hollywood premiere of the Spice Girls’ new movie. It’s a Spice world, after all.
In honor of the Spice Girls’ latest blatant grab for world domination – the major motion picture Spiceworld – Hollywood Blvd. had been transformed into some kind of British-themed amusement park attraction, complete with stone-still Buckingham Palace-style guards in full Beefeater regalia (although a couple of them sported Doc Martens on their feet) and Bobby cops entertaining the huddled masses who had come to spice up their lives. A wide screen of Dodger Stadium proportions, set up in front of the historical Mann’s Chinese Theater, played the Spiceworld trailer in a continuous loop, and without fail, every time Scary, Ginger, Sporty, Baby and Posh Spice exploded onto the full-color screen, the little girls screamed bloody murder. All the while, the Beefeater guards were the epitome of self-control, never moving a single muscle during the whole event.
“GIRL POWER! GIRL POWER! GIRL POWER!” As these fanatical schoolgirls chanted this sacred mantra over and over, I finally understood what “Girl Power” meant. I’d always thought the Spice Girls’ “Girl Power” trip was just empty sloganeering, a silly, meaningless way of disguising their super-bimbo schtick as faux feminism. But this evening, I must admit I got a slight thrill out of hearing a virtual army of impressionable young girls – the Generation Next, if you will – brazenly shout this simple message of female supremacy across the Hollywood streets. Maybe it was all empty sloganeering, maybe the fans in the bleachers weren’t even paying much attention to what they were yelling. But then again, maybe in some subliminal way the message was sinking in, and that couldn’t be a bad thing.
So here I was in the middle of all the chaos, in the roped-off press area, wondering what the hell I was doing there. Toting my cheapo disposable camera and Radio Shack hand-held tape-recorder, I felt like I belonged in the bleachers with the Spice freaks, not sandwiched between the cut-throat photojournalists with their boom mikes and tripods and pro TV cameras. But nevertheless, I lay in wait with the paparazzi behind the velvet rope – knowing that at any moment the Spice Girls would be there, in the flesh.
Meanwhile, various celebrities and quasi-celebrities were strutting down the red-carpeted walkway as they filed into the Mann’s Chinese. Everyone who passed by looked like they were famous – some even balanced cell phones between their ears and shoulders – but I just couldn’t be sure, and from the befuddled glances exchanged by the press folks in my general area, I could see that everyone was having a tough time determining whether or not each passerby was “somebody.” Thankfully, a couple of facilitators working at the event walked a few paces ahead of the B- and C-list celebs, furtively whispering, “That’s Andrew Keegan of Party Of Five” or “That’s so-and-so of Suddenly Susan,” thus eliminating our confusion.
According to a press release supplied by the movie’s publicist, a fleet of major superstars was expected tonight, including such Hollywood royalty as James L. Brooks, George Clooney, Andy Garcia, Spike Lee, Demi Moore, Danny DeVito, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kelly Lynch, Adam Sandler, Joel Schumacher, Will Smith, Steven Spielberg and Bruce Willis, as well as lesser stars like Tim Allen, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Rhea Perlman, Dana Delaney and even Tony Danza. But none of these famous faces appeared in the crowd – if they showed up at all, they must’ve taken a secret route through the back of the theater. So who was there? Giraffe-like supermodel Rachel Hunter, sans hubby Rod Stewart (who had been listed on the press release); Full House moppets Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, whose very presence caused the entire crowd to erupt in inexplicable shrieks of delight; Sister Sister twins Tia and Tamera Mowry, who paraded along the red carpet quite gracefully until the Spice Girls arrived, at which point they began jumping up and down most excitedly; and spiky-haired, bespectacled tike Jonathan Lipnicki of Jerry McGuire fame, who received the most shrill, crazed response of all. The only “celebrity interview” I got out of all of this was with Party Of Five bit-player Andrew Keegan, and only then because he walked right up to my face and gasped incredulously into my tape-recorder, “This is insane! The Spice Girls are HUGE!” Talk about stating the obvious. When I politely asked the obligatory “Who’s your favorite Spice Girl?” question, he seemed to give the matter some actual thought before deciding. “I really dig Scary Spice, because she’s got the cool ‘do. Yeah, I gotta go with Scary Spice!”
But the dearth of major celebrity sightings didn’t seem to bother the Spice-obsessed crowd, who probably considered the Spice Girls far bigger superstars than any of the old-timers immortalized in the cement outside the Mann’s Chinese or on Hollywood’s Walk Of Fame. The real stars, the only stars tonight, were Baby, Sporty, Ginger, Scary and Posh. And never was that more crystal-clear than when the Spice Girls’ double-decker bus, boldly painted like the Union Jack (just like the one in the movie), came careening down the street, the five Spices proudly standing on top and waving to the adoring masses like Rose Parade princesses on a prize-winning float. Suddenly these self-appointed icons of ’90s femininity – stars of a PG-rated movie possibly more popular with little girls than Anastasia – seemed as wholesome as apple pie (or maybe steak-and-kidney pie).
The crowd was going nuts; the screams were positively deafening; even the Sister Sister twins were freaking out. When the Girls climbed out of the bus, resplendent in their second-skin white tuxedos and white satin push-up bras (I suspect the Spice Girls have a lucrative endorsement deal with the Wonderbra company), the volume level of the screaming elevated several painful decibels. “GIRL POWER! GIRL POWER! GIRL POWER!” Finally the screams grew so loud, so plaintive, so demanding, that the Girls crossed the street to sign autographs and talk to the ecstatic fans. A SWAT team of men in black – more than I’ve ever seen accompanying the President – swiftly surrounded them every step of the way, ensuring their safety of England’s national treasures.
Once the Girls returned to the other side of the street and were close enough for scrutiny, I was shocked to find that in person they were much prettier, and much less skanky and garish, that they look in their many unflattering photos. Granted, they probably were more made-up and primped than they ever had been in their lives, but hey – whatever they did, it sure worked. All five had smooth, dewy complexions, enviable cleavage and surprisingly slender figures. Even Ginger Spice – whose bloated, round, reddened face often makes her look like a blue-ribbon beet at a county fair, and whose flab-flaunting trapeze-artists leotards caused audience members to groan at regular intervals during a separate, public screening of Spiceworld the night following the premiere – looked absolutely fabulous.
Suddenly, the Spice cadets were smack dab in front of me, their Spice racks thrusting in my direction. Caught off guard, I dorkily asked them if they had hopes of planting their platformed feet in the Mann’s Chinese cement someday. “Oh, hopefully,” cooed sweet-faced Baby Spice, a.k.a. Emma. “We just did that at Planet Hollywood yesterday!”
“Was that totally crazy?” I asked.
“Everywhere we go is crazy!” Sporty Spice interjected with the somebody-pinch-me enthusiasm one would expect of the most plucky, athletic Spice. “Everywhere we go is more exciting than the next!”
“Oooh, look at her glasses!” Ginger then suddenly remarked, elbowing Scary Spice – who was for reasons unknown yelling, “Crank it up! Crank it up!” – and pointing at my antique frames. Scary leaned in and clucked, “I like your glasses!” in her thick accent. “Thanks! I like yours too,” I reciprocated, admiring her octagonal lavender-rimmed specs. Oh, what a nice moment of fashion-related girl bonding! Later, I wondered if I should be too thrilled that a woman who topped Mr. Blackwell’s Worst-Dressed Of ’97 list had complimented my choice of accessories. (And when Scary exclaimed, “Oooh, I like your glasses!” to Elton John in the very first scene of Spiceworld, I began to question whether she used that line on any four-eyed person who happened to cross her path.)
Then, after all that wait time and preparation, it was all over. The Spice Girls rushed to share 10 or 20 seconds of conversation with the other journalists before going up onstage in front of the wide screen to deliver a speech, which ended up being 100% unintelligible due to the crowd’s frantic, ceaseless screaming. (All I could make out was something about Girl Power.) And then the Spices were whisked away to more photo-opps and into the dark confines of the movie theater, leaving the Spice fans in the bleachers to slowly scatter like confused ants across Hollywood Blvd., scavenging for any discarded Spice-related souvenirs they could find.
“Spice Up Your Life” “Saturday Night Divas” “The Lady Is A Vamp” And so, how was the movie? C’mon, does it really matter? With the Spice Girls, anything they actually do, any product they actually put out, is purely incidental. The Spice Girls are not about the music, or the movie – with them, it’s all about the phenomenon, plain and simple. And in that respect, Spiceworld was everything one would expect and hope it to be: mindless, plotless, pointless entertainment. Nothing more, and it wouldn’t be possible for it to be any less. Between numerous ludicrous costume changes and celebrity cameos (Meat Loaf reprises his busdriver role from Roadie by driving the Girls’ double-decker home-on-wheels, and finally reveals what exactly it is he won’t do for love; Elvis Costello utters a single monosyllabic line in his blink-and-you’ll-miss-it scene; Bob Geldof lets Scary give him a scary makeover at a backstage soiree; Roger Moore plays Charlie to the Girls’ Angels as their behind-the-scenes Svengali; George “Norm!” Wendt and under-appreciated Kids In The Hall alumnus Mark McKinney play a couple of smooth-taking filmmakers pitching ideas for the Spiceworld movie-within-the-movie), there isn’t much room for an actual storyline. Still, the Girls squeeze in a close encounter with some friendly aliens, capsize in the Thames River during a high-speed boat chase, rouse a hospitalized fan out of his coma, take boot-camp-style dance lessons, foil an evil tabloid reporter and even help their best friend give birth, all while changing their outfits and increasingly ridiculous hairstyles about 500 times and still making it to their first-ever live concert by the skin of their crooked British teeth.
Spiceworld has all the makings of a classic midnight movie – at the aforementioned public screening the night after the premiere, the audience was cackling, whooping, hollering, throwing popcorn and sassing back to the screen before the opening credits even started to roll. Everyone expected and even wanted it to be terrible – in fact, if Spiceworld had turned out to be an intelligently crafted work of upstanding cinema, the audience probably would have been sorely disappointed.
Yes, Spiceworld is poorly acted, skeletally scripted and edited with zero concern for continuity. And yes, I highly recommend that everyone go see it. But as the Spiceworld press release says: “Be warned – this Spice is HOT!”