Movie Review: Cool as Ice (1991)

MSDCOAS EC008
Seen: On our projector set-up, streamed from Miles’s harddrive. Originally rented from Scarecrow Video in Seattle.

There was a time, way back in the early 90’s, when Vanilla Ice was a Thing. So much so that he was given his own movie, appropriately titled Cool as Ice. A loose remake of Marlon Brando vehicle The Wild One, the film stars Ice as Johnny, a free-spirited MC who rides around on his cool motorcycle along with his beat-supplying dance crew. One of their bikes breaks down in a small conservative town and they’re forced to stay a few days, shacking up with an old bike repair odd couple. Johnny immediately falls in love with a high school valedictorian named Kathy (Kristin Minter) and proceeds to seduce her away from her stuck-up white-bread lifestyle into his super-cool world of hip hop and freedom. They have one date hanging out at a construction site in the desert and now they’re together forever. But there are problems because Kathy’s dad is actually in a police-specific witness protection program and his identity’s been leaked and now some assassins are coming after him and he thinks Johnny is involved so he tries to keep the young lovers apart WHAT YES THIS IS THE PLOT.

I admit that when Cool as Ice first got going, I was totally into it. It’s got fresh beats, deafeningly loud fashions, hilarious side characters, and a frenetic visual style that had me reeling from weirdness. I loved the inescapable early-90s trappings and the stupid as fuck screenplay. But then. It just got dumb and kinda boring and like, where are the musical interludes? There are all of three breaks for rapping in this movie, and I wanted more of Ice and his awesome crew doing wacky dance moves and antagonizing the locals with their devil’s music. For real, this movie takes place in a town that has never heard hip hop and maybe has never seen a person of color, based on the reactions of the townspeople to the gang’s presence. There is definitely an MTV-ready attempt to satirize middle-class white suburbia, since it’s SO square, but that vibe dissipates when the story becomes more about the romance and Kathy’s weird family problems and criminal hitmen and stuff.

Cool as Ice is- surprise, surprise- a really bad movie, no question. There’s a reason Rifftrax did this a few months ago. The acting is horrendous, the story doesn’t make any fucking sense, the tone can’t figure out what it wants to be, and there’s barely any MC-ing despite this being a showcase for MC Vanilla Ice. But I can’t say I wasn’t pretty damned entertained because it’s all SO. SILLY. My favorite characters were Ice’s crew composed of Deezer D, Kevin Hicks, and Allison Dean, who are all too cool for school. They just hang out eating weird foods and talking about philosophy and dancing, always dancing. If the movie had been about their antics with the old couple fixing their bike (who live in a surreal, multi-colored barn, it’s beautiful), I would have been totally on board with the film! But it’s not. It’s all about this boring romance and some half-assed revenge plot and then Kathy’s annoying little brother gets kidnapped and like, do I care? Nope. Just show me some more dance moves and rock out with your amazing neon outfits and I’ll be happy as a clam. AS A CLAM.

As a movie: 1.5/5
As entertainment: 4/5

Pair This Movie With: Well for a while I was convinced this was a secret sequel to Footloose so that’s one option. Alternatively The Wild One? If that’s a good movie? I’ve never seen it.

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