Film review: Spice World

Published: Friday, Jan. 23 1998 12:01 a.m. MST

"Spice World" doesn't answer any questions about why the Spice Girls are so popular, or exactly when they're going away. But it does provide evidence about which of them is the most annoying.

For the record, that would be Sporty Spice (Melanie Chisholm), whose ear-rattling cockney delivery is the cherry on top of this extremely distasteful sundae. The aptly named Scary Spice (Melanie Brown) — she of the hairdos that would give the Bride of Frankenstein pause — would be a very close second.

Actually, none of the five women comes off particularly well in the movie, which is just an extended music video — the Spice Girls "perform" several of their songs in the film, including "Too Much" and "Spice Up Your Life," with videos shown in their entirety.

As bad as the supposed concert footage is, though, it's strangely innocuous compared to the mind-numbingly awful slapstick comedy routines dreamed up for this lame farce, which may even bore its obvious target audience — the band's hard-core fan base of 8-year-old and 10-year-old girls. And many of the jokes are definitely too crude for them.

The plot, which transparently rips off the story line to the Beatles film "A Hard Day's Night" — minus its originality and liveliness — follows the five during a typical day, as they travel around Europe performing for packed houses. However, the hectic pace has been taking its toll on our heroines, who begin rebelling against their slave-driving manager Clifford (Richard E. Grant) and his boss, the metaphor-spouting Chief (Roger Moore).

At the same time, an evil media mogul Kevin McMaxford (Barry Humphries, better known to audiences as his in-drag alter ego, Dame Edna) begins destroying their reputation by concocting false news stories about them.

They're hounded by documentary film crew and a Hollywood producer (George Wendt), who keeps pitching stupid story ideas for a motion picture (talk about life imitating art!).

With the girls on the run from the paparazzi and McMaxford's evil henchman, things get even more wacky — eventually turning into a parody of "Speed" — as they desperately try to get to a scheduled concert in time.

Director Bob Spiers — who also helmed the terrible remake of "That Darn Cat" — has no clue how to pace this mess, which feels like "Titanic" in length. And the movie looks so grainy it appears to have been shot on Super-8 film stock.

Worse still, the performances are nearly as dreadful as the material. Both Grant and Moore should be embarrassed, but they're far from the only ones. There are also some extremely unfunny cameos by Bob Hoskins and musicians Elton John, Elvis Costello and Meat Loaf. (It's not like the film's young audiences will understand the "humor" behind their guest appearances.)

"Spice World" is rated PG, but probably should have received a PG-13 for some crude humor, sexual double meanings, slapstick violence, brief rear male nudity and a couple of profanities.