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Spice World: The Movie

October 10, 2016

Spice World: The Movie (1997)
Director: Bob Spiers
Actors: Victoria Adams, Melanie Brown, Emma Bunton

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Synopsis: An imagined set of scrapes and dilemmas affecting the Spice Girls at the height of their fame…

Review: Incredibly, it’s twenty years since the Spice Girls burst onto the scene and had their brief but stratospheric reign as queens of the late-Nineties Brit Pop zeitgeist. Although an awful film in its own right (and it was certainly castigated at the time of its release), perspective has lent Spice World a morbid curiosity factor: it’s a bizarre artefact that captures the sheer oddness of the Spice Girls’ rampant hold on the British (and indeed, global) consciousness for those first couple of years after 1996.

It was glaringly obvious at the time beneath the veneer of the “Girl Power” branding, but what really registers is how stage-managed and packaged the Spice Girls bandwagon was. People often reference the girls’ inability to sing and their prototypicality as personalities – but wasn’t that entirely the point? That these girls were an arbitrary bunch of wannabes (pun intended), plucked from the street, and moulded into their commodified niches. The scenes on the girls’ bus where they have their own ‘themed’ section even reminded me of the cartoonish genius of Batman: The Movie (1966) with its pulpy, colour-coded corners of the secret hideaway that the super villains share.

Re-watching Spice World also reminds you of the strange sub-60s/Cool Britannia vibe that was rife in British popular culture at the time. The Union Jack was a recurring motif in the girls’ clothing, and there are plenty of reminders of London’s trendy renaissance (red buses, the Millenium Dome, Ministry of Sound), plus the way the film sought to mirror The Beatles’ own zany 60s pop film collages.

Even if, in the end, the film becomes practically unwatchable as its caper structure devolves into lame movie pastiche after another, there are some ‘finer’ pleasures to be had: name-checking the rogue’s gallery of celebrity cameos (Michael Barrymore’s has to be the most “What the F***?” of the lot), reminding yourself that the girls did crank out one or two classic tunes amid the dross (“Spice Up Your Life” anyone?) and that Mel C was clearly the most interesting and proficient vocalist of the group. (October 2016)

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