[Screen It]


(1998) (The Spice Girls, Richard E. Grant) (PG)

Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Tense Scenes
Mild None Minor *Minor Minor
Mild None Minor Minor Mild
Smoking Tense Family
Topics To
Talk About
Mild Mild None Minor Minor

Comedy: The Spice Girls, a British pop group, try to break free of the daily monotony of being themselves as they travel around touring and performing their songs.
The Spice Girls (Geri "Ginger Spice" Halliwell, Emma "Baby Spice" Bunton, Melanie "Sporty Spice" Chisolm, Victoria "Posh Spice" Adams and Melanie "Scary Spice" Brown) are a popular British pop quintet. Tired of the daily drudgery of traveling in their immense tour bus, the girls hope to get away from their overbearing manager, Clifford (RICHARD E. GRANT), who gets his orders regarding them from the mysterious Chief (ROGER MOORE). As the group prepares for their first live show, they must also deal with a documentary crew, a tabloid photographer, and a film producer (GEORGE WENDT) who wants to make a movie with them in the starring roles.
If they're fans of the Spice Girls and their music, they'll probably want to see the movie.
For some vulgarity, brief nudity and language.
While no one here plays another more than caricatures of real people (including the Spice Girls themselves), some kids will obviously look at the band members as role models. Some parents may be concerned about their daughters dressing like them (short skirts, midriff and cleavage baring outfits, etc...), or behaving like them (a certain benign feistiness -- as well as one member already having a pierced nose and another a pierced tongue, etc...).


OUR TAKE: 2 out of 10
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. As a movie (telling a story with characters), it's nearly a nonentity. If you don't mind a film that's as much fluff as the group's music itself, then this film's for you. Otherwise, you might be better served by avoiding these spices that may give you cinematic indigestion. We give "Spice World" a 2 out of 10.

Other than a few brief moments, this is pretty mild material even for a PG rated film. Still, since many young girls (as well as boys) will want to see it, here's a quick look at the content. There's some mild profanity and a few lines of dialogue that parents of very young children might not want them hearing. The girls' outfits are somewhat revealing (high skirts, low-cut necklines, and midriff baring), and in one scene we see male dancers first in some small shorts and later see their bare butts. While the rest of the categories have little or no objectionable material, you still might want to look through the listings just to make sure the film's appropriate for anyone who may want to see it.

  • There are a few scenes where some or all of the Spice Girls drink wine.
  • A film producer, a writer and Clifford have wine with lunch.
  • Clifford drinks in a bar (as do several other people), and later he appears to be somewhat drunk.
  • None.
  • Clifford pushes the girls very hard and throws tantrums when they refuse to listen to him and/or don't show up on time.
  • A tabloid newspaper editor wants to print false stories about the Spice Girls to bring them down.
  • The Girls' pregnant friend tells them that the father of her baby hit the road.
  • One scene has comically playful scary music in it, but the scene isn't inherently scary beyond the music.
  • In a fantasy sequence, we see "Baby" Spice with a gun and a gun belt slung over her shoulder.
  • In a "dress up" sequence, one of the Spice Girls holds a knife.
  • Clifford throws knives into a tabloid newspaper pinned to a wall.
  • Phrases: "Bloody" and "Shut up."
  • The way the Spice Girls dress (in various outfits including ones that reveal their midriffs and cleavage) might cause girls to want to dress similarly.
  • One of the Spice Girls has a pierced nose while another has a pierced tongue.
  • Clifford throws knives into a tabloid newspaper pinned to a wall.
  • There's a brief mock scene where the girls do some martial arts moves on some bad guys.
  • Clifford spits at the camera crew making the documentary.
  • None.
  • One scene has some scary music in it (but the scene isn't scary itself beyond the music).
  • We heard what sounded like the word "ass" in a song during the closing credits.
  • 2 asses, 3 hells and 5 uses of "Oh my God" and 1 use of "Oh God" as exclamations.
  • Some of the outfits the Spice girls wear reveal some of their cleavage.
  • We see some muscular male dancers wearing the equivalent of short shorts (revealing some bulges in their pants). One of the Girls comments on a bulge and says that it looks like a pair of rolled up socks crammed in there.
  • Later, we see those male dancers again, and the bottoms of their new outfits have been cut out, revealing their bare butts when they turn around.
  • One of the Spice Girls' friends is a pregnant, single mother. When she's about to deliver the baby, one of the girls tells her to keep her legs together. Another then comments "that's something you should have done nine months ago."
  • A space alien walks up to Mel B. and tries to grab her breast as a greeting, but she stops him.
  • In a fantasy sequence, we see a man with a pipe.
  • Some people on the street smoke.
  • A director smokes a cigar.
  • Clifford smokes a cigarette.
  • None.
  • There's a fantasy sequence where all of the Spice Girls are pregnant and it's played for laughs. Some younger girls might get the wrong idea about that.
  • There's a brief mock scene where the girls do some martial arts moves on some bad guys (some kicking and punching).
  • Clifford grabs a writer by the throat when the Spice Girls don't show up for a concert.

  • Reviewed January 12, 1998

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