Cool as Ice (1991) / Comedy-Thriller
MPAA Rated: PG for some violence
Running time: 90 min.
Cast: Vanilla Ice, Kristin Minter, Michael Gross, Candy Clark, Victor DiMattia, Jack McGee, S.A. Griffin, Deezer D, John Newton, Sydney Lassick, Dody Goodman, Kevin Hicks, Allison Dean, Naomi Campbell, Portia Dawson
Cameo: Kathryn Morris
Director: David Kellogg
Screenplay: David Stenn
Review published November 13, 2007
Despite being a hip hop aficionado, especially during the time of its release, one would think I'd have caught Vanilla Ice's (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2) one and only starring vehicle. Not so fast -- Vanilla Ice and hip hop shouldn't be uttered in the same breath unless it's to state he is, in no way, shape or form, a hip hop artist. He's a dancer who had the looks, if not the talent to catch the eye of the public for a spell, mostly because of his white boy appeal and a catchy (and terrible) debut song, "Ice Ice Baby". That song made him red hot for a few months, enough to make him a cool million bucks to star in his own major motion picture. That movie would unfortunately (for his career anyway) come out after he was as cold as the Ice in his name. The movie would end up grossing only about as much as the money they paid him to star in it, and $5 million short of the overall budget.
Vanilla Ice stars as Johnny, the leader of a gang of speedster bikers who also happen to be rappers and dancers. When one of their bikes gets out of commission, the boys (and girl) are holed up in a small town, where Johnny meets Kathy (Minter, Home Alone), a local high school beauty who he develops a thing for. Kathy's boyfriend Nick (Newton, "Melrose Place") -- aka "Dick", as Johnny so wittily refers to him -- is a stuck-up jerk, while her father (Gross, Tremors), is being harassed by some no good hoods (dirty ex-cops) fresh from prison, for money and revenge on ratting them out. Thinking Johnny is in league with them, Kathy is forbidden to see him, so it's up to Johnny to clear his name and set things straight for once and for all.
Despite my extreme dislike for Vanilla Ice's music, I tried my best to put aside these feelings and try to judge Cool as Ice strictly from an objective movie watcher standpoint. After seeing the final product, I don't just hate his rapping, but also his acting as well. Ice knows only one mode, and that's to posture like a wanna-be tough guy throughout, trying to mysterious and cool in a way that James Dean did so effortlessly in the classic they've borrowed heavily from here, Rebel Without a Cause. "Rapper Without a Clue" would have been a better title,
All things said, Cool as Ice is a pretty entertaining movie, but for all of the wrong reasons. It's just so enjoyable to laugh at just how bad the film is, and not only because of Vanilla Ice's terrible performance in it. The small town life is depicted like David Lynch's nightmare, with weird architecture, strange people, and a color scheme of pastels and party favors. It's like watching an episode of "Pee-Wee's Playhouse" except that the participants are mostly taking their roles seriously.
Like a bad Elvis movie, Ice dons an array of progressively sillier outfits, and the film entertains just to see how awful his attire and hair get as he pretends to traverse the town like some sort of tough guy, righting wrongs and wooing the ladies. There are a couple of instances where Ice has to do a little bit of fight choreography, and though he is a skilled dancer, his knowledge of how to throw a realistic punch leaves a great deal to be desired. At least Elvis, another white man who benefited from his skin color in playing Black music to the masses, actually was a talented singer and performer. Ice is the worst rapper and has absolutely no rapport with the audience when on stage, so one wonders just how millions sought out his cheesy records in the first place. Like the character of Johnny, it's all image.
The dialogue is terrible, with nearly every conversation starting up with "Yo..". The vernacular used in the film was already pretty cheesy at the time of its release, with characters all calling each other "homeboy", or if they dislike each other, "wack-head". I especially had a good laugh at how Johnny is able to romance Kathy by being completely "open" with her more or less cajoling her into asking him some questions about himself.
Kathy: So, where are you from?
Kathy: That doesn't tell me a whole lot about you.
Johnny: Doesn't it?
The makers of the film obviously think that making Ice mysterious and flirting incessantly with the camera by raising an eyebrow or grinning mischievously would give women heart palpitations at just how dreamy Vanilla Ice is. Johnny's wooing process seems to be to scare her into being with him, nearly breaking her neck by jumping his motorcycle in front of her while she rides horseback, stealing her valuables, breaking in her house and sticking things in her mouth, and trash talking her boyfriend and parents because they dislike him. Then there are the pick-up lines -- What woman wouldn't be completely entranced by lines like, "Drop that zero and get with a hero"?
I doubt women who met him would think a man who dressed more feminine and was as faux-macho as he comes across would think he was even straight, much less the man of her dreams. Johnny wants to know what she does around the town for fun, but his idea of fun is taking her to an abandoned construction site to chase her around the dangerous environs while grinning like ninnies. Wide sweeps of the "lovebirds" in action all add to the hilarity, as Ice's moves in the romance department might even be more awkward than his fighting skills.
Cool as Ice is padded out to the max, with at least one full-fledged music video to open the film and several useless music montages throughout. The most excruciating song among many is the romantic interlude where Ice bites LL Cool J's soft Casanova style with an unendurable "I Need Love"-ish ballad called "Never Wanna Be Without You". The normally talented Stanley Clarke (Romeo Must Die, Undercover Brother) delivers one of his worst scores, coating nearly every scene with additional noise to go along with the claustrophobic and surreal camera angles and spazzy editing. Out-of-place sound effects punctuate nearly every pronounced hand movement to the point of audience irritation.
Vanilla Ice seems more in his element when on stage dancing in synchronous fashion with his "homeboys" during the breakdowns of his terribly written braggadocio rap songs. Perhaps if Ice had stuck to staying out of the media spotlight, he might have prolonged his career a bit further, because the more exposure he offered, the more dislikable his phony posturing and one-dimensional caricature of himself became. Luckily, his chosen persona is so outlandish, we can all look back and be entertained at its folly. Those who actually snatched up a Vanilla Ice record, t-shirt or poster during the early 1990s will probably find it too tough to endure, just out of sheer embarrassment. Ice's career was no longer cool, but ice, ice cold after this one, never to be thawed from its permanent cryogenic slumber again.
©2007 Vince Leo