Saturday, December 29, 2012
Capsule Film Reviews: Spice World
EMI was, as pundits tell us, a victim of its own lack of diversity in this global neo-gilded era during which the music industry has virtually died. Eat your heart our Don McLean. In retrospect this assessment seems right. A more nuanced picture of EMI's demise, however, would note that EMI tried to diversify when it merged with Thorn Electrical Industries in 1977 and tried to expand into the defence industries, light bulbs, radio rentals, television rentals, coolers, and fridges. EMI's diversity strategies, however, didn't work and EMI divorced Thorn in 1996 leaving it, as it turns out, in a very vulnerable market position in the brave new world of corporate globalisation and synergy (horizontal integration).
So what does all of this have to do with Spice World and its stars, the Spice Girls? The Spice Girls were an EMI product. Virgin Records, the label for which Britain's Spice Girls recorded, had been purchased by EMI in 1996. The Spice Girls were Bob Herbert's, Chris Herbert's, and Lindsey Casbon's attempt to revive the girl group amidst the 1990s boy band revival. The Spice Girls were born out of an advertisement the Herbert's, Casbon, and financier Chic Murray placed in The Stage magazine for 18-23 year old women who could sing and dance. Eventually 400 women were, after some twists and turns, whittled down to five and the Spice Girls were born. They signed with Simon Fuller and his 19 Entertainment who would go on to help create other marketing strategies to find and, in the process, market, stars in a post World Wide Web disneyfornicated entertainment environment including Pop Idol, American Idol, and So You Think You Can Dance.
There was a Spice Girl for every presumed demographic in the UK whether it was class, skin colour, hair colour, or female stereotype and caricature. There was Posh Spice (Victoria Beckham) for those who liked or dreamed of the posh life. There was Sporty Spice (Melanie Chisholm) for those who liked or dreamed of being athletic. There was Ginger Spice (Geri Halliwell) for those who liked or dreamed of hot redheaded outrageousness. There was Baby Spice (Emma Bunton) for those who liked or dreamed of sexy lolita girly girl innocence. And there was Scary Spice (Melanie Brown) for those who liked or dreamed of being tough and aggressive. Collectively the Spice Girls were supposed, or so the marketing group that created them hoped to make us believe via their marketing strategies, to equal Girl Power but they never even came close to approaching the girl power of riot grrrl.
One of the strategies to market the Spice Girls was film. Spice World (1997, Columbia, Icon, Polygram, Director: Bob Spiers, Writer, Kim Fuller, from an idea she and the Spice Girls had), the Spice Girls first and thankfully only film, was the Spice Girls marketing machine's attempt to do for the Spice Girls what A Hard Days Night did for another EMI product, the Beatles. Spice World, a kind of Charlie's oops Bond's Angels, is a series of music promos, modelling shots, and parodies of everything from James Bond to Monty Python to Hollywood to music managers to documentaries to Agatha Christie's Poirot to self parody loosely tied together by a plot in which a Rupert Murdoch newspaper tycoon type sends his best freelance character assassin out to defame the reputation of the Spice Girls. All of this was then poured through a mold of bright hippie cum tamed and hence available for mainstream marketing clothes and female stereotypes and caricatures all of which seem to lie more on the whore side of the female stereotype and caricature spectrum than the virgin. The soundtrack of the film is largely a blitzkrieg of Spice Girls tune. The actors in the film, which inexplicably includes some of Britain's best and brightest including Bob Hoskins, Alan Cummings, Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, and Richard Briers, do their best over the top, something very appropriate for this very over the top film. It was also presumably the marketing machines attempt to help the Spice Girls conquer the huge market of the United States, hence the presence of American actors like George Wendt in the film.
The marketing strategy apparently worked. Spice World took in $75 million dollars worldwide, $29 million of that in the US. It cost around $25 million. Though it may have raked in the dough I have to say that Spice World is one of the worst films I have ever seen. It may be the worst film I have ever seen. Even the attempt of Spice World's filmmakers to make fun of itself thanks to its parodic documentary within a film and film within a film strategies falls flat and seems more like a marketing strategy than an attempt at Brechtian verfremdungseffekt, distancing. I give Spice World one star and that is, I must say, incredibly generous.
Spice World, 2001, directed by Bob Spiers, screenplay by Kim Fuller, 93 minutes, 1:85:1