Monday, November 30, 2015

Spice World

Oh, this one takes me back. Way back.
Specifically, to a period in the late 90s. I was a music critic/editor and general NYC rock chick. It was the internet boom, the rise of downtown, the zenith of the major labels, it was a giddy motherfucking time indeed. And it was also the time of the Spice Girls, the cartoonish girl group that i and a number of my Lower East Side proto-hipster chick friends (un)ironically loved.
They were like the Monkees but with cool outfits and a line of dolls and stickers and books and lollipops and viewmasters and creepy inflatable toys and all manner of crap.
See that Ginger doll, second from left? Sitting in my library, still in the box,
right next to my NRFB Debbie Harry Barbie.

And, like any band that's more persona than chops and that has a ton of money and a young fanbase behind it, someone decided they needed to make a movie. Spice World tries hard to be A Hard Day's Night, but it actually doesn't even make it into Head territory.
The plot, such as it is, is the same plot these movies always have: Will They Make It To The
Big Gig, although this also has a dash of We Must Stay True To Where We're From  No Matter How Famous We Get. As you can imagine, a lot of time-killing shenanigans and amusing set pieces are needed to fill up this cream puff, but the Spice Girls and Spice World just don't have enough in them to pull it off.
There's a bit where the Spices swap personas--Posh as Baby, Scary as Ginger, etc.--and do mildly nasty impersonations of each other. The best part is when the girls flash forward to what they would be like as mothers--overly fecund and correspondingly cranky Baby, drop-'em-off-at-boarding-school Posh, bedazzled jogging suit Sporty, kente caftan earth-mother Scary and, my favorite, cocktail-swilling, rollers-and-rhinestones Ginger...
What Spice World has in spades is a truly insane amount of cameos: Elton John, Elvis Costello, Bob Hoskins, Bob Geldof, Jennifer Saunders (in Edina Monsoon mode), etc. Roger Moore plays their boss and Meatloaf plays their bus driver. Said bus has a little thematic nest for each Spice Girl--Posh has a runway and fashion magazines, Baby has a swing and stuffed animals, Sporty has exercise equipment and Scary has... zebra print. It is not explained why they need to careen around London in a bus, rather than just go home each night. I mean, they're not on tour. There is also a curious fixation on the bus' plumbing. Although maybe that's supposed to be humor, I dunno...
 All manner of shit is flung around in hopes that something sticks: Male strippers, drill sergeants, costume changes, childbirth, haunted houses, alien encounters, bomb scares... none of it is exactly dreadful, but none of it is particularly droll either.
 Spice World was truly the last of its kind: Today's teenybop stars already feed their fans a steady stream of Twitter and Youtube, so there's no need (or much desire) to bother with a full-length film. Which is just as well: Do you want to see Justin Bieber as a boxer or a carny? Selena Gomez beach party? One Direction meets the Phantom of the Park?

Now this is the movie i wanted to see...

The best one can say for Spice World is that it moves along. One wishes they'd gone a bit further--of course it wasn't going to be Beyond the Valley of the Dolls or Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains, but it could have pushed a wee bit harder. Posh's peevish reaction to everything (summoned to meet a fan in the hospital, she begins screaming "It's Victoria!" in the comatose kid's ear) and Ginger's cleavage-flashing and boy-chasing hint at something that could have gone a bit more Ab Fab. Still, it's got "girl power" and, lord knows, it is a relic of its time.

... which leads me to one of my favorite conversation starters: "Did I ever tell you about the time I managed a Spice Girls tribute act?"
Back during the second Clinton administration, i had a cable access show and a shitty punk band. Even more than bar-and-party-gigs, my bandmates/improv troupe/girl gang were known for getting into full glamour drag and crashing high-profile parties. Once as we strutted into a Grammy after-party, people began shouting about us being the Spice Girls and thus a brief turn as a lip-synching Spice Girls tribute act was born. Before you ask, i was Managerial Spice, which meant that i did not have to dress up as a Spice Girl (i was actually in a heavy Mamie Van Doren phase then), but got to run them through their routines like an autocratic Russian ballet mistress, get everyone to the nightclub, give the manager our CD and have top-shelf Scotch with said manager, and finally collect our pay. (In drink tickets: After all, we were lip-synching in a nightclub, back before this was something Britney Spears could make five figures a night for.)
Fake Spice: Ginger, Scary, Baby, Posh, Stalker.
(Managerial Spice is behind the camera, natch.)

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