Spice World Review: Spicing Up Your Life With Too Many Ingredients – Collider

25 years after its release, let’s take a look back at the film that made the Spice Girls movie stars.
The 90s were a truly strange time for pop artists. The decade was dominated by boy bands, from New Kids on the Block to N*SYNC, an odd collection of one-hit-wonders, and the end of the 1990s were a mess of electronica and nu-metal artists breaking into the mainstream. But one group spiced up the 90s pop music scene: The Spice Girls. Each member had their own unique personality that was fairly one-note, yet their catchy songs and love of “girl power” made them one of the biggest successes of the decade. The Spice Girls were such a big deal that only a month after the U.K. release of their second album, “Spiceworld,” the group also released a coinciding movie, Spice World.
As a soon-to-be teenager when Spice World came out, I was in love with the Spice Girls, and more specifically, I was (and likely still am) in love with Ginger Spice (Geri Halliwell). But in addition to being the inspiration for one of my first celebrity crushes, the Spice Girls had legitimately fun pop hits. “Wannabe” is without a doubt in my mind one of the best pop songs of the 1990s, and still, one of the few songs I’ve ever sung at karaoke. “Say You’ll Be There” is a great follow-up to “Wannabe”’s success, and the lead single for “Spiceworld,” “Spice Up Your Life” felt like it was made for gigantic stadiums to sing along to. This is all to say that despite genuinely enjoying the Spice Girls as a kid, I never bothered to watch Spice World, a film that I’ve only seen in bits and pieces from airing seemingly nonstop on TV for several decades.
But I’m not sure young Ross would appreciate what Spice World is attempting to do, and quite frankly, I’m not sure adult Ross fully gets what Spice World is trying to accomplish. After only a few years of massive success, the Spice Girls seem as though they wanted to criticize their public image, the absurdity of celebrity, and the one-dimensional nature of their “personas,” but also give the audience that genuinely loves them something worthwhile. The closest analog is probably The Beatles with Richard Lester’s 1964 film, A Hard Day's Night, or Bob Rafaelson’s 1968 film Head, which presented a surreal take on The Monkees. Spice World seems equally ambitious with this take on absurd pop music stardom, but it’s almost trying to do too much.
RELATED: Richard E. Grant on ‘Everybody’s Talking About Jamie,’ How ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ Helped Him Prepare for the Role, and Jane Austen’s ‘Persuasion’
For example, Spice World sets up a truly ridiculous amount of threads, which leads to the film feeling like it has no focus—which, to be fair, seems to match the Spice Girls’ approach and how easily they get distracted. Spice World sets up:
Right away in the opening credits, it’s clear that Spice World is going to be weird. Once the Spice Girls are listed in the credits, we then get the next stars: Richard E. Grant, Alan Cumming, and George Wendt, a murder’s row for a mostly child audience, to be sure. Meat Loaf is a super fan who drives the Spice Girls’ impossibly massive bus, while Jennifer Saunders, Hugh Laurie, Stephen Fry, Elton John, and more make strange, quick cameos. Sure, it’s likely that many of these cameos were something to give the adults something to get excited about when taking their kids to this movie, but also, the idea of getting people in the theater by casting George Wendt is arguably the funniest thing about this film.
Maybe the most successful story that Spice World explores is that of the movie being pitched by McKinney and Wendt. At first, it seems that they're just coming up with terrible idea after terrible idea of what a Spice Girls movie could be, but in the end, it turns out, we’re watching one of those terrible ideas! Well, sort of? Even when Spice World works, it's still kind of a mess. Apparently, director Bob Spiers didn’t know anything about the group when he was first offered the job, and writer Kim Fuller has said that film had to continuously undergo revisions to fit in all the cameos. While Spice World might at times present itself as subversive, it’s really just a cluttered collection of ideas.
Not surprisingly, Spice World is at its best when it puts the Spice Girls front and center, not avoiding their manager, and not when they’re helping their collective best friend Nicola go through her pregnancy. It’s just fun watching these five together, hanging out, talking and messing around. They’re perhaps at their most fun when they're on the ridiculously huge bus, discussing their personalities and playing up the caricatures that we know them as. In a way, they almost feel like a superhero team, each with their own singular focuses and interests. When these five are together and goofing around, it's when Spice World feels the most like A Hard Day’s Night.
And while, yes, Spice World is sort of a barrage of ideas and threads that don’t pay off all that well, it’s hard to not appreciate that at such a high point in their careers, the Spice Girls decided to make something this wild. It truly does feel like the Spice Girls are having fun, and it's a shame that they do often get lost in all the other antics going on in this unusual mishmash. The Spice Girls were a joy to watch in the 90s, and when they're front-and-center here, this is a strong reminder of this. But unfortunately, there's just too much going on here to really allow us to revel in their joy and spice up our lives.
Rating: C
Ross Bonaime is the Senior Film Editor at Collider. He is a Virginia-based writer and editor who had written about all forms of entertainment for Paste Magazine, Brightest Young Things, Flickchart, The Free Lance-Star, and more. He has an unhealthy obsession with theme parks and the Criterion Collection and will defend the Lost finale until his dying day. More at RossBonaime.com.


Leave a Comment