Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 10, 2007)
Although I don't know how much credibility I actually have with the readers here, the statement I'm about to make may absolutely ruin any positive reputation I have. Nonetheless, I will bravely plod on, steadfast in my belief that the true shall set me free. No more will I hide in shame! So here it is:
I love the Spice Girls.
Now, before you judge me too harshly, I need to tell my story. Once upon a time, I was as staunch a Spice-hater as there was. When the group first hit in the US, I literally cackled with delight about how terrible I believed they were. I mocked them at every turn and took joy from any failures. Of the latter there were few, but I greeted them enthusiastically nonetheless.
Since I'd built up such a malevolent interest in them, I just had to see Spice World when it came out in early 1998. I even got my best friend and my then-girlfriend - also both Spice-haters, though not to my extreme - to go with me. We'd all seen the previews, and the movie just had to be horrific.
To my surprise, it wasn't that bad. To be sure, it wasn't about to win any Oscars or make anyone forget A Hard Day’s Night, but it made a respectable showing for itself and managed to maintain a certain level of silly fun. Grudgingly, I had to acknowledge these facts; so emerged the first chink in my Spice-hating armor.
To quickly sum up the rest of the story, I remained a Spice-hater despite my non-hatred of Spice World and I decided that it would be fun to see the Spice Girls live when they embarked on their first US tour in the summer of 1998. I'd seen their performances on TV shows back in 1997 and they were terrible; even though I now love the band, I still recognize how bad those early live bits were. As such, I anticipated quite a lot of Spice-hating material would manifest itself during an entire concert.
My then-girlfriend and I went and to my never-ending surprise, the Spice Girls put on a damned fine show. I've been to many, many concerts in my life - about 600 at last count - and I tend to be rather difficult to impress; I've seen so many that a kind of regression to the mean occurs and it's hard for anyone to bust out of the pack. Well, Spice Girls did just that. They put on a polished, professional and downright sharp show that night, and that was all she wrote. Just as had happened to me when I saw Madonna 13 years prior, I quickly went from foe to fan because of the high quality of a live performance.
This revelation caused me to reassess Spice World as well, for inevitably I came to like it more once I embraced the band. While the film impressed me to a certain degree when I hated the Girls, it clearly works a lot better if you like them. I certainly derive much more pleasure from the movie now than I would if I wasn't so in the bag for Spice Girls. As such, I probably can't be terribly objective about it, so I'll try to give two reviews of it: one that focuses on my initial impressions in my Spice-hating days, and one that discusses my more adoring feelings.
As I mentioned earlier, my original thoughts about the movie mainly revolved around the fact I found it much more enjoyable than I expected. That doesn't mean I thought it was great, or even good, but since I thought it would be a stinker of epic proportions, "half-decent" was quite a victory for the movie.
In general, I didn't think it was too funny, but I liked the way that Spice Girls were willing to make fun of themselves and the whole hullabaloo that surrounded them. I expected it to me a completely artificial puff piece that displayed absolutely no life or wit, and that wasn't the case. Could the Spice Girls act? Not really, but they acquitted themselves adequately, especially Victoria, who really came across quite well. She was the only one I thought had the talent to pursue an acting career. All in all, Spice World wasn't much of a movie, but it was pretty okay.
Now, of course, I absolutely adore it. Most of that change of heart comes from the 180-degree turn my opinion of Spice Girls took after I saw them live. If you don't find them to be charming and entertaining, then this film won't do too much to change your mind. If you already love them, however, you'll find much in which you can delight.
The girls essentially play caricatures of themselves, and all do so adequately, although Mel C. tends to fade into the background too much and Mel B. tries too hard to do her whole "scary" thing. Both Emma and Geri come across well, and as I already noted, Victoria's terrific. She plays her role as superficial bitch goddess with relish and abandon, and she makes a fine impression.
Maybe I'm just too sensitive, but I really think that most of the people who slam Spice World never saw it. It and Spice Girls are such an easy target. Of course they're going to win "Razzies" or whatever negative awards as "worst actresses"; such decisions were made before the film ever came out. I still feel that many people attack the film simply because they're supposed to do so. I can't imagine I was the only person who went in expecting trash but came away with some respect.
Unfortunately, the film was trashed with much more malice than was - or is - due. The movie purported to be a fun romp through a fictionalized week in the life of Spice Girls, nothing more, nothing less, and that's what it is. Maybe those attached to the movie riled people because they made frequent references to A Hard Day's Night - a film that ironically, altered the opinions of many Beatle-haters in 1964 as Spice World affected me. However, no one ever said Spice World was better than or as good as A Hard Day's Night; it simply followed a similar structural and plot path.
Actually, both movies have nearly identical plots, in that virtually none exists. Oh, there are some subplots, but there's no actual overriding story in place. The entire movie essentially consists of a bunch of semi-related skits and the too occasional musical performance.
And that's perfectly okay. Spice World trots along at a decent pace as it posits the Girls in situations of varying degrees of interest and humor. The group and everyone in the picture maintain a sense of spunky self-deprecation that really carries the day. Everyone knows the film is a piece of fluff and reacts as such. The movie ultimately works simply because it looks like fun and that sense comes through the screen. Hell, if a hardened cynic such as myself enjoyed it, there must be something decent going on up there.
Actually, my biggest complaint about Spice World revolves around the lack of extended musical bits. We get five song performances during the course of the film: “Too Much”, “Say You'll Be There”, “Leader of the Gang”, “Wannabe”, and “Spice Up Your Life”. The first track works worst because much of it runs under the opening credits and the sound mix is uninspired. “Spice Up Your Life” comes across tremendously well as the film's closing number since it was shot quite elaborately to mimic a climactic live performance.
The other three tracks are of most interest to Spice fanatics, however.
“Leader of the Gang” is a cover of an old Gary Glitter tune and it appears nowhere other than during the film itself. “Say You'll Be There” and “Wannabe” are quite readily available, of course, but the movie presents alternate versions of the songs - and in 5.1 sound at that! As much as I enjoy the picture itself, these are the moments to which I most frequently return.
Anyway, I thought we got too few performances, especially since the ones that do appear are so terrific. I also would have preferred less dialogue during the musical scenes; “Say You'll Be There”, “Leader of the Gang”, and “Spice Up Your Life” are all marred by some dialogue plopped into the mix. In all these cases, the music level drops for those bits, which takes away from the presentation.