I’ve already lost some of you, but hear me out. I’m not saying Spice World should be your favorite movie. It’s not mine. It’s not even in my Top Ten. But about four months ago (sorry, Kim and Sage, hopefully my slowness is mostly charming), I was blessed to watch this movie in a theater. And even though it was nowhere near my first time seeing it, nor my first time loving it, it *was* probably my first time realizing just how perfect it is. I can’t quite explain what was different this time around to make room for the realization. Maybe it’s being well into adulthood, which for me has included fully embracing my love of absurdity and flamboyance. Maybe it’s the clusterfuck of American life these days/years, which has intensified my hankering for silliness. Maybe it’s that I was supercharged with fuck-yeahed woman-loving-ness because I had just watched Beyonce’s Lemonade in that same theater an hour before. Or maybe it’s the simple fact that the Spice Girls are a gift of pure love and light and sass bestowed by the god(desse)s, and they made the Best Movie.
Pipe down, naysayers. They are, and they did, and it is. Allow me to elaborate:
Take a hike, Garden State.
Maybe you’re sitting there all “duh if you like the Spice Girls you obviously think the Spice World soundtrack is great,” but take it down a notch, Linda. Even if you aren’t a Spice Girls fan – which, you poor thing – that’s not even really the point. Of course Spice World includes multiple stage performances of the big hits, which are a DELIGHT. But lesser-known Spice Girls songs play in the background throughout the movie too, reminding us how dumb we are for not owning their entire anthology. And a quick reminder, while I have you here: not only do the Spice Girls have a song that includes the lyric “I want a man, not a boy who thinks he can,” that song is what they selected for the OPENING CREDITS. Pop stars of my heart. And speaking of the opening credits, it’s a full on Bond film homage.
Superlative Spice: When the Girls take their 9-months-pregnant BFF to a club to help her out of her super-pregnant-and-alone funk, the song that pulls them away from her and onto the dance floor IS THEIR OWN SONG. But equally “of course,” the whole time they’re jamming out to themselves, they keep an eye on said preggo friend to make sure she’s ok while they dance, so they notice immediately when she goes into labor. In a club. Best.
The Spice Girls are untouchable, obviously, and Emma, Geri, Mel B, Mel C, and Victoria are each and all delightful in the movie. But – and this is the first and only time I will utter this about these gems – step aside, Girls. I’m not talking about you just now.
Every Body is in this. For a movie that’s essentially about five people, the cast list is the movie credits equivalent of a CVS receipt. I’ll get to the stupendous supporting cast in a bit. But first, the cameos. My god, the cameos. So many very famous people are in this movie for mere seconds, which serves to remind just how fucking IT the Spice Girls were at a particular moment in time. A better moment, really. Elton John appears within the first few minutes – just to run into the Girls in the hallway after a gig and have them be in too much of a hurry to stop and chat properly. Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Jonathan Ross, Bob Geldof. Dominic West pops up from behind a camera during a photoshoot (and ok he wasn’t exactly famous yet, but I still made a noise, and isn’t that the point of cameos?)
And the cameos aren’t limited to easy, obvious “look how many famous friends we have” type – they deliver real humor. Elvis Costello is a line-less bartender for 2 seconds just so he can serve as a “fame is such a fickle thing” punchline. When Geri goes into a telephone booth to change into a disguise, she emerges as BOB FUCKING HOSKINS, flashing a peace sign and exclaiming (in Geri’s voice) “Girl Power! Equalization between the sexes. Mmmm!” My fav cameo is Jennifer Saunders, slipping back into Edina Monsoon like a perfectly roomy caftan. If you believe the credits, she’s not meant to actually be her Absolutely Fabulous character, but that bullshit “Fashionable Woman” credit can’t erase the fact that she responds to Posh’s question about manta rays with Edina’s trademark Fake It Til You Almost Make It desperation:
“Ohhhh yes uh marvelous designer, Manta Ray. Love Manta Ray. These are his shoes. These are Manta Ray’s shoes. These are his glasses!” via GIPHY
Tell me that’s not Eddy. I don’t care what the credits say. God, I miss Ab Fab. Sage, Kim: Can that be my next post? I promise to get it to you by 2019. Probably.
That’s just the cameos, pals. And not even all of them. The actual supporting cast? It’s… : Naoko Mori of Torchwood (stick around for my Spice Girls/Doctor Who headcanon) as basically the 6th Spice Girl; Richard O’Brien of Rocky Horror Picture Show as a deranged but resourceful paparazzo, Barry Humphries (muh fuh Dame Edna) as a scheming tabloid editor, Claire Rushbrook of Sage’s favorite Doctor Who two-parter (and a million other British shows and movies) as part of the Girls’ management team, Meat Loaf as their tour bus driver, Roger G.D. Moore as their manager’s hilariously villainous boss. Had enough? TOO BAD. It’s also got Worldwide Treasure Alan Cumming as a documentarian following the Girls around trying to make a capital-F Film, and Mark McKinney of The Kids in the Hall as a Hollywood writer pitching a Spice Girls lowercase-m movie with George Wendt as his sycophantic Hollywood producer.
And Richard E. Grant. Guys, Richard E. Grant. His performance as Clifford, the Girls’ long suffering tour manager, is…DELECTABLE. He is so scrumptiously unhinged: constantly on the verge of a stroke/heart-attack combo, hitting his head and screaming into the void. There is no way a description that comes from my adoring but merely human brain could adequately describe how perfect he is in this movie. Honestly, if you aren’t moved by anything else in this post, I implore you to watch the movie for this character and this performance alone. And then enjoy every other single detail as well, and come back to apologize to me for not believing my truth-disguised-as-hyperbole.
Although Grant is the MVP (Most Valuable Penis-Having Cast Member) of Spice World, I can never overstate the value Alan Cumming brings to every role he plays. My love for him is well documented on this site (despite this only being my second HOF post), and anyone who’s ever been right about even one thing in their life can agree he should be in everything always – that’s closer to objective truth than even basic arithmetic is. And although we as a species currently fail at making that happen, at least we made sure he was in this. His barely tolerated, almost certainly unauthorized documentarian is a beautiful mix of tenacity and delusion – a baselessly confident and officious white man artiste whom you only don’t hate because he’s played by Alan CharmBomb Cumming. Plus he wears an unzipped parka in almost every scene for no discernable reason, which tickles me gently and thoroughly.
Superlative Spice: “The Spice Girls” are listed on the IMDB cast list as Themselves (uncredited). Rationally, I know it’s because each of the women is credited individually, and the group is technically a separate entity, but more importantly: I don’t care why. I find it hilarious. Best.
I can’t even begin to properly dive into the costuming details; there’s too much good. So many platform shoes. So many little Gucci dresses. So many sequined leotards. So many coordinating but not identical (because personalities) performance costumes, like the all white ensembles in the movie’s opening number (followed immediately by perfectly-crafted “casual” outfits for their post-performance walk and talk).
And it’s not just the Girls. Clifford wears so many shiny, jewel toned suits that I wonder if Richard E. Grant put it in his contract. I hope he did. I bet he did. I need to believe he did.
Superlative Spice: During the portion of dance boot camp (you heard me), when the Girls march outside wearing standard issue fatigues and army boots, one of them is wearing an ever so slightly customized version:
The flawless costuming is just one way the Girls lean all the damn way into their personas in Spice World. This is a movie about the Spice Girls that includes TWO plotlines about movies being made about the Spice Girls. That’s a lot of potential for up-their-own-assedness. But your eyes are too busy delighting in their light-hearted self mockery to even think about rolling.
There is no attempt to hide the fact that the five women who make up the Spice Girls are inhabiting one-dimensional archetypal characters manufactured by some (probz male) music executive whose entire vision board is just Scrooge McDuck’s money pool. The women know exactly what their respective roles are, and how transparent they are. And god bless them, they spend this entire movie having just the best fucking time with it. Each section of the tour bus is on-brand to the point of absurdity (Posh has an actual runway); Scary’s “rawrs” are sprinkled throughout the script like placeholders that never got filled; Baby is almost never without a lollipop; Sporty is constantly sporting around. It’s as if the first draft of the script was returned with “WE GET IT!” scribbled on every other page, and the screenwriter’s response was “BUT DO YOU????”
There are both moments of explicit recognition and faked obliviousness by the Girls themselves, about themselves. And while none of those moments is particularly clever, I’m not sure they really could be. They’re amusing all the same, as long as you’re not looking for reasons to feel superior.
The single best scene poking fun at their personas is a photo shoot that starts out rather predictably, with the woman dressing up as various historical and fictional characters. Seeing Mel C and Emma as Danny and Sandy, Victoria as Jackie O, Ginger as Wonder Woman (as if I needed another tab in my Ginger Spice Fantasy binder), and Mel B as Diana Ross is certainly fun, but not particularly intriguing. But then each one tries on another’s Spice Persona: Ginger as Sporty (someone get me another tab, please), Mel C as Posh, Mel B as Ginger (complete with flawless impression: “ummm blah blah blah, girl power, feminism, doyouknowwhaimean”), Emma as Scary, and Victoria as Baby. It’s beautiful. And you deserve to see it right now:
1:47 is where the Persona Swapping starts.
SO GOOD RIGHT? It’s my favorite segment from the movie, Category: Clifford-less. And although it ends with each Girl grateful to go back to “herself,” the photoshoot has already made its point by then: their personas are just that. And they can be peeled off and applied to anyone who’s game. The point is – these women know what exactly the fuck they’re doing. And it’s fun as hell to watch.
Superlative Spice: Ginger is portrayed as a walking set of Trivial Pursuit cards. She’s constantly going on about a new subject she’s learned all about. She has a chessboard on the tour bus and is apparently the only one of the Girls who knows how to play (or least cares to play). It’s a clever nod to the fact that Ginger was always the one without a unique “thing.” Don’t get me wrong: having red hair is fucking awesome. Not having it is – no exaggeration – the thing that haunts me most in this life. But it doesn’t lend itself to a clear persona the same way that posh and scary and baby and sporty do. So what the hell? Let’s make her know everything. She may dress the skimpiest, but what does that have to do with her intellect? Absolutely nothing. Wonderful. Best, even.
This movie is, in many ways, a perfect 90s time capsule (you’re welcome for finally changing that from campsule in my final edit). But it also beautifully evokes the campiness of so many 60s, 70s, and 80s celluloid treasures. Fully describing the camp factor of this movie would basically require the length of the script (which this post already is). I’ll just highlight the fact that the Girls travel around IN THE UK in a giant Union Jacked tour bus that seems to fit the equivalent of a city-block-sized flat on the inside. I mean, it looks quite big from the outside, but not THAT big, y’all. The only logical explanation is that the Spice Bus is actually the TARDIS, gifted to the Girls by Clara and Ashildr when they’d finally had their fill of exploring the universe together (and after they’d fixed the chameleon circuit, apparently). Head canon: ACCEPTED.
While camp and silliness are not exactly the same, they’re close enough (to my heart) that I’m lumping them together for the purposes of this post. I. FUCKING. LOVE. NONSENSE. And it abounds in Spice World, to our collective benefit.
Roger Moore’s “Chief” is a Bond villain-esque Charlie to Clifford’s Bosley, complete with pet-stroking, knowing from afar what Clifford is about to do before he does it, and indecipherable telephonic nuggets of “wisdom.” What’s that? You want to know precisely what wisdom? Tell you every single bit!? OK!
“When the speeding melon hits the wall, it is Christmas for the crows.” You knew that already? How about that “the drummer who is without sticks has no backbeat.” That too, huh? Ok, well it definitely has never occurred to you that “when the rabbit of chaos is pursued by the ferret of disorder through the fields of anarchy, it is time to hang your pants on the hook of darkness…whether they’re clean or not.” Wha? Son of a — ok well just don’t forget that “Without sacrifice, there is no success. Without pain, there is no pleasure. Without something, there is no nothing.” And before you get to feeling all high and mighty, just “remember, the headless chicken can only know where he has been. He cannot see where he is going. Do not be that chicken,” dear reader. “Let us enjoy this triumph while we can, before the hounds of catastrophe break free of their shackles, and slobber chaos all over our faces once again.”
Naturally, there’s also an evil tabloid syndicate conspiring to break up the Spice Girls to make for more interesting stories, the subplot responsible for some of the most preciously absurd moments. When the Editor in Chief of “Event” magazine begins picturing the potential headlines, he excitedly spits saliva all over his writer, and as he’s delighting in the destruction they can cause if only they can find a crafty enough paparazzo, it starts THUNDERSTORMING in the half of the office where the writer is standing.
The someone he finds is a creepy stalker investigator who’s more than qualified to secretly gather exploitable evidence from the Girls. “He did the Fergie toe-sucking pictures. He got the teletubbies taking a poo. And if you want a picture of Bill Clinton tucking his t-shirt into his underpants, he can get that too.” And do his methods ever work, hoo BOY! My personal favorite tabloid headline comes after Geri is asked if she likes boys and she jokes “Is the Pope Catholic?!” Listen closely and you can hear someone in the background responding “I think he is, yes.” Bless. Of course, the papvestigator hiding in a fruit plate nearby (because this movie is the Best Movie) twists it into a front page Event headline: “SPICE GIRLS IN POPE SHOCK: Spice Girls doubt whether Pope is Catholic.” But that’s not ridiculous enough for this movie. The bombshell headline leads to a newscast about the Spice Girls “casting doubt on the religious conviction of the Pope,” which of course leads to the Vatican issuing a statement about the “Pontiff [being] hurt and confused at the suggestion that he might not be Catholic” and an outraged bishop-on-the-street interview: “I’d like to know what evidence the Spice Girls have to support these allegations! I really would!” This movie, honestly.
Additional sprinkles of delicious nonsense:
- Dance boot camp is gloriously absurd. It begins with Michael Barrymore greeting them with “I’m your mother now, and I DON’T mean superior” and ends with a Spice Girls-specific call and response.
- During a night in a haunted mansion (don’t worry, their PJs are perfectly on-brand), the pap comes up THROUGH THE TOILET to spy on them.
- There’s an aquatic adventure! “Spice Girls at sea! What an extraordinary combination of girl power, and horsepower!” Alan Cumming, never leave us.
- Multiple fantasy sequences, each better than the last, are interspersed throughout the movie, and not typing out the details of every single one is possibly my greatest achievement. Feel free to reward me.
I have done nothing wrong, ever, in my life. via GIPHY
Superlative Spice: THEY HAVE AN ENCOUNTER WITH A UFO.
Everyone who learned anything from stand up comedy in the 90s knows girls pee together. And the Girls are no exception. So when all the toilets in the tour bus break at the same time, they all venture into the woods at night to handle their business. Cue extraterrestrial superfans. The whole scene is a masterful fever dream, but my favorite part comes when the aliens ask for tickets to the Girls’ upcoming live show and they’re like sorry bros it’s sold out. LOLOLOL. BEST.
Oh right and duh doy: the Girls understand the alien language. This is, of course, further evidence to support my Clara/Ashildr theory. They clearly had at least one adventure WITH the Spice Girls in the TARDIS before gifting it to them, apparently after swinging by to pick up Thirteen to tag along, so now the Girls benefit from the Translation Circuit. It’s all so obvious. Honestly, I’m embarrassed for the rest of you that you didn’t realize it.
This movie is fucking funny. Straight up. I love jokes almost as much as I love nonsense. And especially when it comes to movies like this, I don’t discriminate between good-good and terrible-good jokes. All are welcome in my ears. Fortunately, both kinds are plentiful in Spice World, and I love every single one. “Or if they find a cure for déjà vu” followed H-IMMEDIATELY by “Or if they find a cure for deja vu.” Nice. Meatloaf responding to Clifford’s request to fix the toilets on the tour bus with “I love these girls, and I would do anything for them, but [YOU GUESSED IT BUT YOU’LL STILL LAUGH] I won’t do that.” NICE. Roger Moore insisting “there’s no need for any stirring” up of paparazzi…while he’s shaking a martini shaker. NOICE.
A solid example of my favorite kind of Spice World Joke happens during the alien encounter (I hope you’re still not over that, as I will never be). One of the aliens asks Mel C for an autograph for his brother, Krtkkarphillmuk, and she responds, without skipping a beat: “Is that 3 or 4 Ks?” I LOVE THIS MOVIE SO MUCH YOU GUYS.
Superlative Spice: When a ticketless Alan Cumming is trying to convince the bouncer at a promo party to let him and his 2-man documentary crew in, Nicola happens by and gives them her extra ticket. So he turns back to the bouncer in triumph, exclaiming “We have a ticket!” and then quietly serenades the bouncer with “and tonight is the niiiiiight when THREE become ooooooone.” Boom. They’re in the door. And I’m on the floor. Best.
And last but OBVIOUSLY NOT FUCKING LEAST…
The Girl Power.
Maybe I was just too timid at 16 to really embrace it, and maybe I was too caught up in my Leonardo DiCaprio obsession to notice other more women-minded girls embracing it, but I remember Girl Power coming across as more of a gimmick than a true rallying cry at the time. I really hope my memory is mistaken though, because what a waste if no one took it to heart back then. I felt the same stirring at seeing the most recent Wonder Woman movie that every other (white) woman did (and that I hope women of color get to feel at seeing Black Panther and other soon to come non-white women superhero movies), but we had some bad bitches throwing heat 20 years ago, y’all.
Crowds react to the Spice Girls like they’re the fucking Beatles, and quite right, too. Not only are these women talented and beautiful and funny and fun (all of which comes through in the movie), they pack Spice World with the kind of positive messages for girls and women that they infused into everything they did from the get go.
The one non-ridiculous subplot centers around their long-standing friendship with Nicola, who’s currently pregnant as hell and facing parenthood alone since her jerkface boyfriend left her wide and dry. Except she’s not alone, because she has the Girls. And when she goes into labor, they’re at the hospital with her (after trying to deliver the baby themselves first – it’s cool, Geri read a book about it), ready to miss the big live gig the whole movie (and their career) has been leading up to, rather than leave her to give birth alone.
When Mel C-as-Danny Zuko pinches Emma-as-Sandy’s butt, Emma turns around and slaps him, then smiles satisfied at the camera like “damn right.” GOD damn right, Emma. I may not be a fan of grown women acting like children – especially to play into some kind of warped sexual fantasy – but that sure as hell doesn’t mean I think grown women acting like children have to take shit from men, especially not groping. And sorry not sorry: I love Grease, but Danny acts like a dirtbag and gets away with way too much. Atta girl, Photoshoot Sandy.
Speaking of having no time for over-greased men, during an Italian TV performance, the Girls refuse to have mostly-naked guys as cheap background eye candy during their song. While tiny, bright white booty shorts and sailor hats may be the perfect go go dancer outfits for Dionne Davenport’s Bachelorette’s Party, they Spice Girls aren’t having that tacky shit on their back up dancers. So, being principled boss bitches, they insist on something more dignified: Shiny, purple and pink suits.
Compromise is so beautiful. via GIPHY
Superlative Spice: There’s nary a love interest in sight for any of the Girls. They barely even talk about men in this movie if you don’t count song lyrics. And when they talk about men at all, they’re talking smack. Not scorned-woman trash talk, but matter of fact smack talk. And the fact of the matter is: there’s a lot of truth to be shared about men’s…lesser attributes. And the Girls aren’t shy about sharing it. They aren’t unnecessarily mean, but they also don’t sugar coat.
Trash talk and smack talk are TOTALLY different. via GIPHY
And again, the vast majority of the time they’re just not talking about men at all. They’re talking about absolutely anything else. Just like, you know, people do. That might seem like a silly thing to point out, but it feels a little revolutionary. Ginger may be the only Spice Girl who knows what the Bechdel Test is, but they all sure as hell know how to pass it. And ain’t that just the best?
The Things I Didn’t Even Get to Dive Into Because There’s Just Too Much BECAUSE SPICE WORLD IS THE BEST MOVIE
- Remember that call and response I mentioned from dance boot camp? It starts with “We’re the Spice Girls, yes indeed, just Girl Power is all we need. We know how we got this far: Strength, and Courage and a Wonder Bra.” The rest is just as beautiful, but I’m not going to put it here because FOR CHRIST’S SAKE, CATHY, IT’S ONLY 2.99 ON AMAZON.
- When Nicole is in labor, Mel C, Geri, and Victoria are asked by parents in the hospital waiting room to come talk to their son, Malcolm, who’s in a coma. As they’re chatting to him, one of the girls jokes that Geri should take her top off, which of course gets him to open his eyes. Same, Malcolm. So same.
- There’s a total shitbag who’s rude to Nicola at a party and there’s no reason for that character to have a name, but he does and it’s Barnaby because of course it is.
- Mel B invents an app before apps were even a twinkle in Steve Job’s turtleneck. “You see, I think, with boys, you should be able to just wheel them in, and then they’re there, and then that’s it.”
- An aquatic adventure happens! Some contest-winning kids fall overboard, and even though Sporty dives in to save them, Clifford scream-laments “Just great! Parents lend us their kids, and we drown them!” Posh’s reaction to nearly drowning is a much more reasonable, “This dress is DRY CLEAN ONLY, MELANIE!”
- Speaking of which, I need to praise Victoria Adams’ (that’s right – she wasn’t even Beckham yet) comedy chops. This bitch may not smile, but she is goddamn hilarious. And watching this movie just reminds me how devastated I was – and still am – that her reality show about moving to LA back when Becks started with the LA Galaxy ended up only being a one-time special. I need that full series.
Alright, I’m off to knock on the doors of the six producers not yet outed as complete monsters to petition for Victoria’s reality show. Bless you for indulging my Spice World love and enabling my verbosity.
Off you go to spice up your life: buy the movie, download the Spice Girls’ discography, celebrate women! And share your thoughts about how right we are that Spice World is the Best Movie!