Can rap be reduced to pap? “Cool as Ice” (citywide) almost turns the trick.
It’s a movie vehicle for quadruple-platinum album selling rap artist Vanilla Ice, a singer-composer (a.k.a. Robert Van Winkle), whose records are canny, streamlined pastiches of the ghetto-style brags and stories of rappers such as Ice-T, Ice Cube and LL Cool J. It’s one of those movies that seem fabricated for a shopping mall: decorative, pretty, vacuous.
The colors are warm and bright, like a lollipop. The compositions recall chic magazines, and Vanilla’s screen image--glittery blue eyes, Leyendecker profile and upswept blond hair--suggests a fugitive from a Calvin Klein poster.
That’s probably part of his appeal: blond, bent all-American looks mixed with the ghetto slang yo ‘ s and chills and wax-a-chumps. But the movie doesn’t play into the conflict of that image. It doesn’t collide Vanilla-Johnny with the ghetto world whose argot and postures he borrows.
Instead, it has him invade an even stickier-bright suburban world, romancing Kristin Minter’s WASPY Kathy Winslow: portrayed as a 4.0 student with double 800s on her SATs--though there’s hardly a book in her bedroom. There’s also an unbearably cute kid for Johnny to grin at, and squeaky-clean parents (Candy Clark and Michael Gross), comically dopey neighbors (Sidney Lassick and Dody Goodman), a snotty boyfriend and a couple of villains. The plot is so close to silent comedy--mediocre silent comedy--that it’s not surprising to note that scenarist David Stenn is the author of a book on Clara Bow. It’s also not surprising director David Kellogg honed his eye-teeth on music videos; if you listen to much of the dialogue, you’ll wish there were more music to drown it out.
“Cool as Ice” (MPAA rated PG) does have some good, or passable, songs. But it doesn’t have grit, hip, urgency or surprise. With its over-clean imagery and cliche-riddled plot, it puts Vanilla Ice across less like rap’s Elvis than its slightly lewd, rude Pat Boone.