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SONY

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Mark Steven Johnson
Cast:
Victoria Beckham, Melanie Brown, Emma Bunton, Melanie Chisholm, Geri Halliwell, Alan Cumming, Hugh Laurie, Kevin Allen
Writing Credits:
The Spice Girls (idea), Kim Fuller (idea and screenplay), Jamie Curtis (additional material)

Tagline:
They perform for royalty and entertain millions the world over. But now, they're making a movie.

Synopsis:
Climb aboard the double decker Spicebus and get ready for a madcap musical movie adventure with the sexy phenomenons of pop - the Spice Girls. A humorous encounter with extra-terrestrials, a night in a haunted castle, and a moment of truth in a maternity ward are just a few of the funny escapades you'll enjoy as the girls gear up for their first live concert at London's Royal Albert Hall. Emma, Victoria, Mel B., Geri and Mel C. star with George Wendt, Richard E. Grant, Roger Moore and Meatloaf in this hip and sassy movie. There are performances of the Spice Girls mega-hits plus new songs, andfeatured cameo appearances by Elton John, Elvis Costello and more!

Box Office:
Budget
$25 million.
Opening Weekend
$10.527 million on 2339 screens.
Domestic Gross
$29.247 million.

MPAA:
Rated PG

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
Fullscreen 1.33:1
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English Dolby Surround 2.0
French Dolby Surround 2.0
Spanish Dolby Surround 2.0
Subtitles:
English
French
Spanish
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
None

Runtime: 93 min.
Price: $9.95
Release Date: 6/16/1998

Bonus:
• Additional Song
• Trailer


PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM

EQUIPMENT
Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


Spice World (1998)

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.


The DVD Grades: Picture B/ Audio C/ Bonus D

Spice World appears in both an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 and in a fullscreen version on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the widescreen image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Only the letterboxed picture was reviewed for this article. Though the transfer was a mixed bag, it usually seemed pretty good.

The biggest weakness came from the film’s graininess. This was an awfully grainy image for a modern flick. I suspect that the grain is part of the negative and not an artifact of the transfer, but it still seemed rather heavy given the movie’s vintage and style. No other print concerns emerged, however, as the rest of the image seemed clean.

Sharpness was usually satisfying. A smidgen of softness cropped up at times, but not with any consistency. Instead, the film mostly came across as concise and accurate. I witnessed no signs of jagged edges or shimmering, and edge enhancement was minimal.

Given the peppy pop world of the Spice Girls, it came as no surprise that the film boasted dynamic colors. These worked quite well most of the time. That heavy grain occasionally diminished their power, but I generally felt that the tones were vivid and impressive. Blacks seemed deep and tight, and shadows were pretty good. Yeah, the grain could make them slightly murky as well, but not to a problematic degree. I didn’t think the movie looked good enough for a grade above a “B”, but I usually liked what I saw.

A bigger disappointment came with the inconsistent Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Spice World. As a movie with a lot of music, I expected very good fidelity for those elements. Though the film’s score displayed nice range and punch, the Spice Girls songs usually came across as thin and feeble. This started with the flick’s opening rendition of “Too Much” and continued almost unabated through the climactic performance of “Spice Up Your Life”. The club scene with “Who Do You Think You Are?” was the only notable exception, as it featured booming bass to fit the setting, but all the other songs sounded mediocre at best and flat and wan at worst.

In terms of audio quality, the rest of the track was fine. Again, the score seemed pretty full, and effects showed nice range. Of course, this kind of movie didn’t present a lot of powerful effects usage, but a smattering of broader scenes added pep to the program and provided a good punch. Speech was always clear and concise as well.

As for the soundfield, it seemed decent though erratic. Music usually featured acceptable stereo imaging but even that side of things could falter. The oddest choices occurred during that “Spice Up Your Life” performance I cited. The mixers made some odd choices such as the decision to put the verses’ vocals in the front and rear left channels. Why? This distracted me as I watched and made absolutely no sense.

Other songs featured more logical delineation but weren’t particularly memorable. Effects presented pretty good spread, though they weren’t often a major factor. Still, they popped up in the right spots and added a little pizzazz to the surrounds. For the effects and dialogue, this was a good track. Unfortunately, it messed up the most important aspect, the music, and because of that, I felt it deserved only a “C”.

Only minor extras appear here. The primary attraction remains one song deleted from the movie: a "live" version of “Mama”. This track was filmed during the same "concert" that gave us the clip of “Spice Up Your Life” in the feature. Though presented non-anamorphic 1.85:1, the scene looks fairly good and seems to have been edited as though it were part of the film. The audio comes directly from the set itself, though, which means we hear real crowd noise but only a taped backing track to which the Girls lip-synched. This means it’s an awkward piece, but a decent addition to the set.

We also get the film’s trailer. Shown fullframe with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, it’s notably mostly because it includes a few snippets that don’t appear in the final flick. Those make it fun, but it’s a disappointment that the DVD doesn’t present the flick’s teaser trailer as well. That one offered footage of the Spice Girls in the bathroom shot explicitly for the ad. We get a quick glimpse of that material here but not the whole thing.

I liked Spice World 10 years ago, and though I worried it wouldn’t age well, I thought it still entertained in 2007. An often clever piece of silliness, the movie pokes fun at itself and everything else to provide a witty and charming experience. Despite some prominent grain, the picture looked pretty good. Unfortunately, the audio seemed mediocre at best due to poor reproduction of the songs, and the set includes sparse extras. I like the movie enough to recommend it, but this stands as a lackluster DVD.

To rate this film visit the Special Edition review of SPICE WORLD

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