If you want to know what’s really, really wrong with Spice-world check out the trailer. The same thing goes for Tomorrow Never Dies, the latest James Bond caper. These greedy bundles from Britain aren’t movies at all; they’re merchandising units designed to milk a trend for every last buck. So why suffer through two hours of crude promotion and product plugs when a two-minute trailer can work you over with less wear and tear? Pay close attention, and thank me later.
The Spice Girls, together since 1993, are relatively new at this con game – Spiceworld, though shamelessly ripped off from the classic 1964 Beatles flick A Hard Day’s Night, is the Fab Five’s first film. Tomorrow Never Dies, the 20th Bondathon if you count Woody Allen’s comic take 30 years ago in Casino Royale, exploits the same 007 formula, which hasn’t been shaken or stirred since Sean Connery ogled the first Bond Girl (Ursula Andress) back in 1962 with Dr. No.
Is there a link between Spice Girls and Bond Girls? You bet, and Spiceworld wastes no time cementing it. The trailer opens with an image of a globe and a disembodied voice: “When the world is in trouble. When our future is in danger. We call upon one man.” And what man do we see? Roger Moore – James Bond from 1973 to 1985. Says the voice: “But when he’s busy, he calls five girls.” Out they come, feet first – oh, those strappy heels; oh, those platforms: Emma Bunton (Baby Spice), Geri Halliwell (Ginger Spice), Melanie Brown (Scary Spice), Melanie Chisholm (Sporty Spice), Victoria Aadams (Posh Spice).
Now comes the character development. Says Scary Spice, “I think, with boys, you should just be able to wheel them in.” Baby Spice agrees: “Yeah, order them like a pizza.” Adds Scary, “Yeah, no cheese.” Next up are the supporting characters. Elton John, Bob Geldof and Elvis Costello do cameos. That doesn’t count. Richard E. Grant plays Clifford, the bossy manager who is organizing their first live concert, at London’s Royal Albert Hall, and negotiating with an American producer (George Wendt) for a movie.
How’s that for art imitating life? The difference is that in November the Spice Girls fired their real manager, Simon Fuller, who put their name on everything from potato crisps to wallpaper. Ginger Spice took over temporarily, although at the London premiere of Spiceworld, she offered the job to royal fan Prince Charles, who attended with sons William and Harry. “I am very expensive,” said Charles jokingly. Fuller’s brother, Kim, wrote the screenplay for Spiceworld, which is dull enough to qualify as family revenge. Meanwhile, faced with the disappointing sales of their second album and a media backlash that prompted Time magazine to label them “Most Likely to Succeed and Then Be Forgotten the Next Morning,” the Spice Girls have taken to self-promotion even more flagrantly than before. Said Baby Spice of the band’s $26 million movie, “[Prince] Harry told us, ‘I’m going to tell all my friends to come to see it,’ so that was really nice.”
Indeed. It’s too bad the girls couldn’t persuade the motherless princes to appear in the trailer. But the trailer has its own tricks, including ways to defuse criticism before the film opens in the U.S. on Super Bowl weekend. “Yeah, but can they act?” asks one cynical wag, to which Scary Spice responds unforgettably: “Blah, blah, blah. Girl Power. Feminism. Ya know what I mean?”
Loud and clear, Scary. The ending of the trailer takes promotion to the turbo level. As the girls sing, you realize just how many plugs it takes to fill the Albert Hall. No limits. The following words – some in capitals for proper emphasis – are superimposed: “Music from the motion picture can be found on Two original albums, Spice and Spiceworld. The Spice American Concert Tour Starts Summer 1998.”
Tomorrow Never Dies, starring Pierce Brosnan in his second outing (following GoldenEye) as British Agent 007, nearly outdoes Spiceworld in product placement. “Bond,” declaims Brosnan at the start of the teaser trailer. “You know the rest.” Yes, James, we do. We know that the formula for Bond films has atrophied since Sean Connery first gave it life. If Connery was Sexy Bond and George Lazenby was One-Shot Bond and Roger Moore was Geezer Bond and Timothy Dalton was Bored Bond, then Brosnan should be Posh Bond. Less an actor than a model – some call him a hood ornament – Brosnan looks elegant wearing a tuxedo by Brioni of Rome ($3,800), wielding a cell phone by Ericsson ($299) or sipping vodka by – oh, let’s leave the plugs to the movie.
You can see most of the plugs in the trailer. As most fans of the early, better Bond films know, the only life left in the series is in the gadgets. Sex is almost nonexistent in Tomorrow Never Dies. Teri Hatcher reveals her bare back to Bond as the wife of media tycoon Elliot Carver (Jonathan Pryce), but the moment is over in a flash and is shown in the trailer. Asian action star Michelle Yeoh appears as a bad-guy buster, but nary a hot look is exchanged between her and Bond, let alone bodily fluids. As for humor, Brosnan can deaden a double-entendre faster than he can change outfits. Seeing the buildings that Carver has erected in his own honor, Bond talks of the tycoon’s “edifice complex.” Ouch.
Gadget freaks can take solace in the BMW 75oiL – priced at $92,000, but that’s without the unit prepared by Q (Desmond Llewelyn) so Bond can drive it by remote control and let fly with tear gas and rockets. It’s the best scene in the flick – and also visible in the trailer, in tighter form. Reports have it that BMW paid $30 million to market its cars and motorcycles in the film. Be it in trailer or feature, the plugs roll on. The Spice Girls said it best in song: “Too Much.”