Monday, May 10, 2010
Shitty Movie Review - "Cool as Ice"
I've been jonesing for a shitty movie lately. Somehow I managed to fit in a week's worth of good movies (including a couple of Nicolas Cage films) that left me needing to satisfy my fix. Out of a huge stack of options, I settled upon "Cool as Ice." Actually, "settled upon" makes it sound like less than a compromise—I wanted to watch "Cool as Ice." I really wasn't sure of what I was getting into, but I'd have to say I was pleasantly surprised. It doesn't bode too well when the movie is a romance and the poster shows that the lead actor would rather stare off into space than look at his girlfriend. It was horrible, but not nearly as bad as I expected it to be.
First off, I wanted to state that I firmly believe in the historical relevance of this film. "Cool as Ice" symbolizes everything that was wrong with America in the early 90s: the commercialization of hip hop culture, posers, fashion, and tweener films. It's like a time capsule that everyone wishes we had buried and forgot. I'm surprised the United States National Film Registry hasn't deemed the film "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."
The film follows white rapper Vanilla Ice as Johnny Van Owen, an other-side-of-the-tracks biker who runs with an all black posse. When his buddy's bike break down while riding through a small, conservative, predominantly white town, they're forced to put down roots temporarily. Then he meets a girl, blah blah blah. ... The story is crap, plain and simple. But it's all the little touches here and there that make this film good.
I still prefer his performance in "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: Secret of the Ooze," but Johnny will forever be Vanilla Ice's quintessential role. Here he gets all the cool/lame lines, walks like a chicken, spins way more than any normal person should, does air splits, and wears his own dialog. He's really going for broke in this film, pushing the very boundaries of what it means to be an actor. Underneath the bravado hides a sensitivity and natural ignorance that only the most gifted actors can portray. Although he represents a young man in the film, his character is that of a little boy. When he meets a girl he likes, what does he do? He tries to impress her by jumping a fence with a motorcycle which scares the horse she's riding on to buck her off. Then he steals her planner. It's schoolyard romance at its finest. But sadly, despite a cocksure performance, he is undermined by a subversive director.
Director David Kellogg is primarily a commercial and music video director which is evident from the movie's quick cuts and lack of silence. He could have made a standard teen angst romance movie that reverberated with a constant backbeat, but instead he had to make it memorable with all sorts of bizarre choices. The movie was rated PG, and clearly the producers wanted to appeal to the widest possible audience. But the movie doesn't make it clear who the target audience is. A teen romance with the gritty reality that Vanilla Ice represents should have appealed to teens and college-age movie goers, but when the rap and R&B music isn't playing, Kellogg underscores scenes with clown music. And old lady hip hop dancing. He also plays with time, undercranking the camera to speed through otherwise mundane scenes that would have offered a break from the monotony of Vanilla Ice's screen presence. Also, there isn't a single action that isn't punctuated by a DJ scratch.
At one point Johnny's love interest, Kathy Winslow (played by Kristin Minter), goes to a dance where the band is performing an uninspired rock version of "Love to Love You Baby." Then it gets all beer commercial as Ice pulls the band's plug and busts a rhyme with a hip hop version of the song as "Luve 2 Love U," bringing the dull party to life.
There's also a lot of fighting. Bad fighting. With the amount of time they spent to choreograph the dancing, they could have at least used any amount of time setting up the fight sequences. This is where Mr. Ice was at his weakest, and it shows.
I do have to give a shoutout to Janusz Kaminski, the two-time Academy-Award-winning cinematographer, who lensed "Cool as Ice." To think that he even worked on another movie is quite remarkable.
Sadly, the movie is only available on VHS at this time, as well as Netflix streaming. But if you have an opportunity to see "Cool as Ice," you shouldn't deny yourself. Someday you'll be telling your grandchildren about it.
My shitty movie rating: 7 turds out of 10. Worth a look!