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‘Cool as Ice’

By Richard Harrington
Washington Post Staff Writer
October 21, 1991


David Kellogg
Vanilla Ice;
Kristin Minter;
Michael Gross;
Sidney Lassick;
Dody Goodman;
Candy Clark
General audience

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Having established that he can't rap or dance, Vanilla Ice now adds acting to his resume -- call it the tri-imperfecta of pop. And judging by the thin crowds at weekend screenings of Vanilla Ice's feature film debut, it might better have been called "Cold as Ice" than "Cool as Ice." Hopefully it's a promise of things to come.

The film itself is a cross between an after-school special and MTV video, melding threadbare plot with colorful visuals and delivering a message, which is, basically, Vanilla Ice is cool, you know? Having already ripped off hip-hop culture for a multi-platinum debut album, the Ice-person continues to seek street credibility with his African American posse, one that rides its garishly painted motorcycles into a quiet little town ready to be all shook up. It's "Footloose" meets "The Mild Ones," but the posse is offscreen for most of the film. This star vehicle is built for one.

Vanilla Ice is Johnny (such is the level of originality) and the film centers on his clumsy courting of Kathy, a pretty high school honor student who seems quite ready to ditch those twin 800 SAT scores and bright future at the mere cock of Johnny's shaved eyebrow. This being a G film, however, things never get steamier than a Benetton ad and the film serves up all its social encounters like a video version of Sweet Valley High.

This includes Ice's fights with Kathy's former boyfriend, an uptight and alcoholic jock who doesn't take any more kindly to Ice than critics or rap fans do. In one of the film's wittiest exchanges, Ice tells Kathy, "Drop that zero and get with the hero." Ooh, that Ice!

Luckily, the Mother Goose Primer rhymer only performs five songs, and only three noticeably. The rest of the soundtrack is cluttered with the likes of D'New, Denise Lopez and Partners in Kryme, none of whom is likely to be heard from again. While Vanilla Ice himself may be deserving of a similar fate, he does have a terrific profile, which cinematographer Janusz Kaminski resorts to whenever the script falters. There are lots of profile shots, which may or may not satisfy his core audience of pre-pubescent girls.

As for Ice's acting, he's most effective in meditative profile. His character is oblivious to everything but himself, so playing the role probably isn't much of a stretch, but it must have been embarrassing for real actors like Michael Gross and Candy Clark (as Kathy's parents). As Kathy, Kristin Minter projects certain impatient teenage energies but she's basically playing the Apollonia role to Vanilla Ice's Prince, which means she has to work hard to get between him and his motorcycle.

A subplot involving Kathy's parents is merely a vehicle for generational misunderstandings and what passes for action, but it does little to rouse the film from its persistent lethargy.

Vanilla Ice seems to have anticipated critical reaction -- there's a line somewhere about "dissed again" -- but he goes Elvis Presley one step lower in his appropriation of black culture, resorting to stolen attitude and lingo without a pretense of appreciation. Well, to quote him, "You axed me." If only ...

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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