Directed by Bob Spiers. Starring The Spice Girls, Richard E. Grant, George Wendt, Mark Mckinney, Claire Rushbrook, Richard O'Brien, Roger Moore, Barry Humphries, Meat Loaf. (1997, PG, 93 min.)
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Jan. 23, 1998
“How bad is it?” “Imagine as bad as it could possibly be....” “Yes?” “It's much worse than that.” Believe it or not, that's actual dialogue from Spice World, the first (and almost certainly the last) cinematic volley from the British femme-pop, girl power quintet. Bad as it may be, though, the film falls that one precious inch shy of being quite so awful that it achieves cult status; in short, it's just not bad enough to be any good. Essentially a reworking of The Beatles A Hard Day's Night, Spice World follows the antics and battles of the band's five members -- Sporty, Scary, Baby, Posh, and Ginger -- as they prepare for their first-ever live concert at St. Albert's Hall. Along the way, they poke fun at the media, themselves, the recording industry, themselves, filmmaking in general, and, of course, themselves. Cheeky monkeys that they are, the Spice Girls are one of the most self-aware groups to come down the pike in some time. It's obvious right off the bat that they know they're already on minute 14.9 of Warhol's Stopwatch o' Fame, and the inevitable Spice backlash (which actually began in the real world about six months ago) is ably parodied in the film, with the girls going up against a vile Fleet Street news magnate (Humphries) and his scheming paparazzo Damien (O'Brien, of The Rocky Horror Picture Show and the upcoming Dark City). They also have to deal with a bumbling documentary film crew shooting their exploits and a Hollywood screenwriter (McKinney) and his producer (Wendt) eager to turn their story into a blockbuster movie. Meanwhile, their road manager Cifford (Grant) is desperately trying to keep the wayward girls in line and get them to St. Albert's on time. Oh, and they manage to deliver a friend's baby, as well (“Now that's girl power!” they quip. Slap forehead/groan.) Amidst all the bad puns (of which there are many) and sublime philosophical rants (of which there are few) runs a steady stream of celebrity cameos, the spotting of which may be the most enjoyable part of the experience for many. Everyone from Bob Hoskins to Jools Holland and John Cleese to Elvis Costello (playing the waiter from Alex Cox's Straight to Hell, it seems) wanders in and out of the film. Unfortunately, longtime BBC director Spiers (Absolutely Fabulous) can't seem to build up either any suspense or genuine hilarity along the way, making this one of the weaker semi-mockumentaries in a while. Honestly, if it weren't for a) Posh Spice's dazzling cheekbones and b) the eternal mystery of why we never get to see Sporty's legs (a rash? botched prison tattoos? what?), there wouldn't be much here to hold the interest of anyone other than Princes William and Harry.