Reviews

Reviews Rock Follies II

Cool As Ice

Cool As Ice

David Kellogg

US, 1991

Credits

Review by Josh Bell

Posted on 13 December 2012

Source VHS

Categories Rock Follies II

Even at his most obnoxiously ridiculous – and Cool as Ice is about as obnoxiously ridiculous as his career gets – Vanilla Ice has always had a sort of affable lunkhead charm. Sure, his music is terrible, his catch phrases are inane, and his acting abilities are essentially nonexistent, but he’s just so easygoing and enthusiastic about everything he does that it’s sort of hard to hate him. Of course, the Ice of the present, with his chart-topping days well behind him, is humbler and more grounded than the Ice of Cool as Ice, which was greenlit at the height of his stardom and ended up serving as a prime example of his hubris when it became a massive box-office failure.

Even setting aside the quickly waning popularity of Ice’s music (the movie’s new songs are on the same disposable pop-rap level as his hit singles), Cool as Ice is an ill-conceived mess, a poorly plotted, indifferently acted, tonally incoherent story that does a poor job of selling Ice as a movie star. Aside from the musical sequences that bookend the movie (and are essentially standalone music videos), Cool as Ice pays little attention to Ice’s status as a rapper (which is also the occupation of his character, Johnny Van Owen), instead focusing on the vapid romance between Johnny and small-town high schooler Kathy, along with the “menace” of a pair of thugs who are after Kathy’s father.

Johnny and Kathy meet cute when he jumps a fence on his motorcycle right in front of her as she’s horseback riding, spooking her horse and nearly killing her—which somehow makes her view him as an alluring bad boy, rather than a reckless delinquent. Later on, he accosts her in front of her house as she’s parting with her obvious douchebag of a boyfriend, in the process stealing her planner (which includes her college scholarship materials, as well as her paycheck) and commanding her to “drop that zero and get with the hero.”

Although Kathy’s dad is wrong in assuming that Johnny is associated with the dirty cops who are after him, Johnny does put Kathy’s boyfriend in the hospital after he messes with Johnny’s homeboy’s bike; climb into her room while she’s asleep and wake her up by dripping an ice cube into her mouth (metaphor alert!); and decree that her new name be Kat, presumably because Kathy isn’t hip enough for the likes of a rapper who wears a puffy orange jacket with no shirt, and a backward baseball cap with the tag still on it.

Kathy and Johnny’s big date involves them cavorting among unfinished house frames at a seemingly abandoned construction site, after which they engage in deep conversation (“What’s it like? Having parents and all that stuff?” Johnny asks). Even fans of Ice’s music couldn’t possibly have bought into this nonsense, and although director David Kellogg, a music video veteran, does allow for some campiness from the goofy older couple who promise to fix Johnny’s posse’s motorcycles, the movie takes the central love story very seriously. Michael Gross of Family Ties fame plays Kathy’s dad with as much gravitas as he can muster, but the storyline about his dangerous background (he was a police officer who blew the whistle on his corrupt colleagues and went into the witness protection program) is laughable.

And yet despite all of Johnny’s creepy behavior, there’s something endearing about Ice’s performance. He’s so completely confident of his charisma, so oblivious to how garish his wardrobe looks and how moronic his songs are. Cool as Ice is terrible by almost every measure (although the cinematography by future Oscar winner Janusz Kaminski is sometimes far more creative than one would expect, with hazy, almost dreamlike images inside Kathy’s placid suburban home, and a sort of skewed funhouse perspective in the mechanics’ crazy workshop), and yet it’s almost compulsively watchable. That’s not only because its badness can be entertaining, but also because Ice himself is a fun guy to spend 90 minutes with.

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