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'Spice World': Posh? No, Scary

By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 23, 1998

  Movie Critic


Movie Scene
A Spice rack, clockwise from bottom: "Spice World's" Ginger, Posh, Sporty, Scary and Baby Spice. (Columbia Pictures)

Director:
Bob Spiers
Cast:
Melanie Brown;
Emma Bunton;
Melanie Chisholm;
Geri Haliwell;
Victoria Addams
Running Time:
1 hour, 33 minutes
R
For sexual innudendo that may be inappropriate for younger audiences
You've heard, no doubt, of the Spice Girls, a five-gal, English pop group that has already made millionaires of its members. We'll get to their debut movie, "Spice World," in a moment. But first, a quick introduction.

The Spice Girls are: Posh, Ginger, Sporty, Baby, Scary, Dopey, Sleazy and-wait, is that too many? Posh Spice (Victoria Adams) dresses up real classy. Scary Spice (Melanie Brown) is the sassy, brassy one. I have nothing I can tell you about Ginger Spice (Geri Halliwell), except I believe her red hair color is, uh, fabricated. Sporty Spice (Melanie Chisholm) is a spunky, chatty, in-your-face kind of northern lass. And Baby Spice (Emma Bunton), who dresses like a kid, carries teddy bears and has her hair tied in two pig tails, has an uncanny resemblance to my father's Skye terrier.

These Girls are huge already, with Guinness Book of World Records entries, platinum albums and so forth. They've sold more than 10 million singles worldwide. They seem to be on the cover of everything that Leonardo diCaprio isn't. At a critics' screening for "Spice World," half a row of seats was filled with staffers from USA Today. I knew immediately this was a film of tremendous import, possibly the most significant media event since "You Light Up My Life."

Then I saw the movie. "Spice World" is about as awful and shamelessly pandering as a fanzine movie could dare to be. Even if you try to excuse this film as a disarming, bubblegum-style, fab-London fantasy, it still sticks in the craw.

What happens? Madcap stuff. The movie is like a series of music video outtakes disguised as a story. The Girls, who are five days away from appearing in a sellout concert at London's Albert Hall, vamp from one photo op to another. They fly to Italy to film a song-and-dance number-only to find the director has decided to crowd the spectacle with muscular, scantily clad male dancers.

On another occasion, when the Girls hop off the "Spice Bus" to find an outdoor restroom, they run into_. . ._aliens! Aliens, that is, who are looking for tickets to the Spice Girls concert. And they keep bumping into fellow celebs, including Elton John, Bob Geldoff and Bob Hoskins.

They have one existential lament: They're too famous! Everywhere they go, fans mob 'em and paparazzi paparazzi them. An Australian media tycoon (Barry Humphries) has dispatched a guerrilla photographer to capture anything controversial he can. An American movie producer (George Wendt) is dying to put them in his next picture. A video director (Alan Cummings) wants to make an arty documentary about them. And their handlers (Roger Moore as a Bondian villain, and Richard E. Grant as a traumatized goofball) work them to the bone.

What can five stressed millionaires do? Change costumes, that's what! And dress as each other! They can also show they're human, by making sure they attend a pregnant friend's delivery, even if it means holding up all those Albert Hall fans who are chanting "Spice Girls, Spice Girls, Spice Girls!"

Screenwriter Kim Fuller and director Bob Spiers (he of TV's "Absolutely Fabulous") ape the kinetic, entertaining Beatles films, such as "A Hard Day's Night." But instead of four musically inspired moptops from Merseyside, the filmmakers are stuck with five duds trading shrill banter in a Union Jack-emblazoned double decker bus-presumably, their modish version of a yellow submarine.

Of course, the world should be big enough for everybody, including this incredibly successful group. But don't let anyone fool you into thinking they're actually selling something.

   
© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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