In this edition of Lackluster Video, we take a dumpster dive back in time to the funky-fresh world of early ’90s rap music. In those days, hip hop supremacy was determined less by the tightness of your rhymes and more by the puffiness of your parachute pants. Exhibit A: MC Hammer.
It’s no surprise that in this era of big personalities – and even bigger pants – a persona like uber-honky Vanilla Ice could rise to dominate the early ‘90s rap scene, a period I like to call the “Ice Age.”
1991 was a big year for Vanilla Ice AKA Robert Van Winkle AKA V-Winkle AKA Bi-Polar. His debut album To The Extreme (featuring the Queen- and Bowie-plagiarizing “Ice Ice Baby”) was the best selling hip-hop album of all time. He made a cameo appearance in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze freestyling the immortal “Ninja Rap.” Not content to share the screen with a band of animatronic Muppets, the Ice-Man quickly followed this with Cool as Ice, a hip hop remake of Rebel Without a Cause and Footloose. It was Ice’s first and, thankfully, last starring role.
Judging by the film’s ludicrous title, you’d expect it focus on the “hipness” of the “dude with ‘tude” at the expense of plot and character development. And you’d be absolutely right. Just look at its logic-defying tagline: “When a girl has a heart of stone, there’s only one way to melt it. Just add Ice.” Wait, how can ice melt a… Oh, you mean Vanilla Ice. Witty.
This vanity project begins with a thumping dance sequence blatantly ripping off the opening credits to Do the Right Thing. I wonder why Spike Lee didn’t call shenanigans. But then again this film’s theatrical run only lasted three weeks. In a post-apocalyptic-themed dance club, Vanilla Ice wins the ladies over with rad rappin’ skillz and erratic “help-I’m-being-swarmed-by-bees” dance moves.
Here’s your very own slammin’ Dance-Like-Ice Dance Guide:
And here’s an animated .gif I found on the webs:
I don’t know whether to laugh or grab an epi-pen!
The only thing more boss than Ice’s dance moves are his bitchin’ threads. He wears a neon orange jacket and a black baseball cap with steel plates plastered on the front and the brim. (?!) And it’s still got the price tag on it, so he can show off how much he wasted on it…or return it for a refund. You think that’s dope? Wait till you check out the dude’s ‘do, complete with zig-zags shaved into the back of his head. No one expresses individual style quite like Vanilla Ice. Thank God.
After a long night of lyrical supremacy, the Ice-Man convinces a bra-as-outerwear wearing hottie to give him her phone number.
It’s a 555 number! Ice, you got played!
Then Ice and his neon clothes-fancying posse of hardcore homies hop aboard their day-glo neon motorcycles and ride off in search of another town and another dilapidated dance club in which to subject innocent audiences to their sonic crimes.
An illegal license plate. Take that, establishment!
But, wait! V-Ice has another crime in mind. Spotting an innocent young woman on a horse, this badass honky-homeboy attempts to add murder to his already lengthy rap sheet. Description doesn’t do this scene justice. Witness this cinematic crime in progress:
Realizing she’s not dead, Vanilla plays it off as an accident, asking if she’s okay. The girl responds by punching him in the kidney. Now that’s what I call breaking the Ice! ‘Nilla, being the manipulative psychopath that he is, attempts to play the victim:
ICE: Damn, what the hell’s wrong wit’ you?
GIRL: What the hell’s wrong with you?
ICE: Nuthin’… ‘Till now.
GIRL: (sarcastic) Aww, did I hurt you?
ICE: Tha’s a’ight, I’ll live. Yeah, you hit pretty good FOR A GIRL!
After the girl leaves (lest he make another attempt on her life), Ice puts this moment into perspective: “Yup yup, she likes me.” Now that’s what I call playing it cool… as Ice! The Ice Squad’s reign of terror takes them to suburbia where old men and boy scouts alike stare mouth-agape in horror at their flamboyant fashion sense.
While driving through this town of future victims, Ice’s homeboy, Jazz, complains that his neon green and black zebra striped bike “be trippin.’” To those who ain’t fresh to the jive, that means his bike be havin’ problems. “What a hoopty,” laments Princess, the group’s token female.
Fortunately the party posse drive past the home of an old couple with even worse taste than them.
The ZANY couple that lives there offers to repair the trippin’ hoopty. But instead they completely disassemble it, forcing the biker bros (and biker ho) to stay at this creepy horror house until it’s fixed. Isn’t that the plot of Misery?
But then, Ice spots his previously intended murder victim drive by. The white convertible stops at a house across the street, where Ice’s dream victim is let out by her boyfriend. Ice swaggers over for Round Two.
Overhearing the girl’s name to be Kathy, the self-proclaimed “lyrical warrior” (or as he’d say, “leer’cal woah’yah”) addresses her as “Kat.” You know, ‘cause it’s short and monosyllabic. Like “bitch.” This fails to melt her fickle heart. She’s probably still sore about the attempted murder. “Kat’s” douchey boyfriend Nick tells him off. Vanilla fights back by giving “Kat” one of the most jaw-droppingly awesome pick-up lines/insults in the history of human history. I could tell you what he says, but I wouldn’t do justice to Ice’s subtle line delivery:
Oh snap! Drop that zero and get wit’ the hero. One of the greatest line deliveries in cinematic history. This clip deserves to be in those montages of great movie lines—along with “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn” and “Stella!” I’d put it right after those two, as it’s clearly the far better performance.
While Nick is still dumbfounded by that earth-shattering comeback, Ice slams him with another verbal cock-punch:
ICE: See you later, dick.
NICK: It’s Nick.
ICE: Oh yeah, yeah. NICK.
Vanilla Ice is a lyrical Robin Hood. He returns from “chillin’ wit’ Kat” (nice ice pun, Ice) to reveal that that whole scene was just a diversion so he could steal her organizer. “Looky looky looky in Kat’s black booky.” The rhymes never stop with this guy. He’s a regular 24/7 Poet Laureate of the People.
The Ice Squad later spot “Kat” on the six o’clock news. No, it’s not because Ice murdered her. “Yo yo man, chill,” scolds Ice when Jazz tries to change the channel. He makes more ice puns than Arnie’s Mister Freeze in Batman & Robin. Apparently the local news is doing a feature on “Kat” because… um… she gets good grades in school or something. Nice one, screenwriter! Do they have nothing better to show on the local news?
Apparently they have nothing better to show on the national news either. Some obviously villainous fat dude watches the same TV news feature in a seedy bar several states over. He recognizes “Kat’s” father (Michael Gross from Tremors and TV’s Family Ties). He recruits his trigger-happy bald accomplice and sets out on a road trip of revenge. This looks like the beginning of actual plot development.
Unhappy that the crazy couple haven’t made any headway with Jazz’s “hoopty,” Ice decides to go “[a]cross the street to, uh, shling a shlong.” Ice’s rebellious streak extends even to the English language. He failed to melt “Kat’s” heart in Round One and Two. But V-Ice has an ace in the hole. Or as he’d say, an “Ice in the hole.”
After that “shling a shlong” line, Ice has now depleted all his clever zingers. It’s time to win her over by wearing the most flamboyant clothing the human eye can withstand. His orange, green, and purple pants look like they were made from the same fabric as Joseph’s Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat. But they pale in comparison to the abomination that is his leather “Graffiti” jacket. It’s covered in words like:
DANGER, DOWN BY LAW, FREEZE, HYPE, ICE, LUST, OH YEAH!, ROLLIN, YEP YEP, DOPE, SEX ME UP, and DEEP.
It’s the entire essence of Vanilla Ice in jacket form. Yes, he really is that shallow.
Throughout the film, the camera focuses on specific words on the jacket that reflect the emotional undertones of the scene. I guess that’s supposed to be artistic or something.
V-Winkle peacock-struts over to “Kat’s” house. But she’s not home. Sorry Ice, no dice. (This bad rhyming thing is infectious!) Fortunately “Kat’s” younger brother Tommy has a man-crush on the Ice-Man and reveals that his sis went to the Sugar Shack club with her BF. As Ice turns to leave, the camera focuses on the jacket words “OH YEAH!”. Screw subtlety, now the movie just tells me what to think.
On his way back to the wacky house, Ice runs into the evil fat dude and his trigger-happy partner. They don’t exactly hide the fact that they’re in town to extract blackmail money from Kathy’s father. But Ice is too preoccupied with his own awesomeness to care. All he wants is directions to the Sugar Shack. As fate (or the screenwriter) would have it, “Kat’s” pappy just happens to be looking out the window at that precise moment. He sees Vanilla Ice chattin’ with the bad dudes. Now he thinks Ice is one of them! This plot is getting intense!
The Sugar Shack is the only place in this totally-whack backwater burg where sexy teens can hear a live band. As expected, the band performing on stage can barely play their instruments. Their dorky ape-chested singer punctuates his lyrics with even more pelvic thrusts than the Ice-Man himself. (Didn’t think that was possible!) I guess they have to suck that bad to make Ice look that much better when he boots them from the stage and starts crankin’ out some (imitating scratching turn-table) fr-fr-fr-fresh rhymes. Here’s a sampling of the lyrical genius that is Ice:
“…It’s a bottomless pit of rhymes
And it comes from the mind
Of a genius
And you can’t be modest
When I make a threat you bet I keep it like a promise.”
Rhymes. Genius. Modest. The first three words Vanilla Ice wants us to think of when we think Vanilla Ice. The words “bottomless pit” resonate stronger with me.
As the club patrons are won over by this tour-de-force performance, Ice snatches “Kat” from the douchey Dick (I mean Nick) and starts dancing with her. Then he starts grinding with her. On the floor. Dick is pissed. (I’m gonna start calling him “Dick” from this point on. Everyone else does.) The couple argues and Dick drives away without her. But not before “Kat” offers up this Ice-inspired slam, “You know something Nick, you really are a dick!” Dick just got served!
That dry humping really won her over. I guess that’s what the tagline meant by “Just add Ice.” And by “Ice”, they meant “penis.” “Kat” hitches a ride home with the Neon Knight, who pops more than just a wheelie on the way. But he don’t get no play. All she wants is her organizer back; she gives him twenty-four hours or she’s calling the po-po. This poet of the people once again puts this moment into perspective: “Dissed again.” He’s a man of few (but profound) words.
Vanilla’s Icey-Sense is tingling so he heads back to the Sugar Shack where he finds Dick and his band of rude dudes bashin’ in his bro’s bike:
ICE: So wassup fellas?
DICK: Just doing a little a batting practice on your bike.
ICE: It’s not mine. It’s Sir D’s.
DICK: Who’s Sir D?
ICE: He’s my homeboy.
DICK: Yeah? WELL HOMEBOY THIS!
By “THIS” he means a baseball bat to Ice’s face. But Ice easily dodges the weapon. It turns out all his dance moves also double as brutal Batman Begins-esque fighting moves.
Within a matter of seconds, Ice easily dispatches of six armed men and sends Dick to the hospital with a broken nose. Dude, you can’t ice the Ice – no dice. (I can’t control myself any more! These ice puns have got to stop!) The superhuman “dude with ‘tude” struts away saying, “See ya, dick.” He’s not even worth wasting new material on any more.
The next morning “Kat” is woken up when a dripping ice cube is shoved in her mouth. Guess who’s responsible? (Clue: It’s not Ice Cube.)
I think it’s supposed to be a metaphor for something. Like the fact that women will put anything in their mouths on-camera if you pay them enough and convince them it’ll make ‘em famous.
Before the Rohypnol in the ice cube sets in, “Kat” demands to know why the Ice-Man is in her room. And in her bed. To which V-Ice eloquently replies, “You axed me to”, and hands back her organizer. The flustered (and drugged) “Kat” says she’ll see him later. Ice creepily says, “You seein’ me now.” Just as Ice talks “Kat” into removing her top, “Kat’s” brother storms in, cockblocking the Ice-Man and preventing any chance of nudity.
Before the drugs really get a chance to kick in, Ice convinces “Kat” to go on a ride with him to an abandoned construction site. Nothing creepy and sinister about that. As “Kat” cozies up to Ice on the bike’s bitch seat, the camera focuses on the jacket words “LUST.” Awww yeah!
What follows is a half-hearted “getting-to-know you” sequence/ “love montage,” in which “Kat’s questions about Ice’s personal life are met with aversion and cryptic responses:
“KAT”: So where are you from?
ICE: Yep yep.
“KAT”: That doesn’t tell me very much.
ICE: Doesn’t it?
Yes, it does, Ice. It tells us you don’t want her to know too much about you, in case Murder Attempt #2 doesn’t work out.
V-Ice asks “Kat” a number of personal questions only to react dismissively and condescendingly toward her:
ICE: So tell me, what do you do fo’ fun around here, COLLEGE GIRL?
“KAT”: (laughs self-consciously)
ICE: What, you too busy fo’ dat?
“KAT”: No, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with working hard.
ICE: (smirks) Imagine that!
ICE: What’s it like having parents… and all that stuff… a brother and all that stuff, you know?
“KAT”: It’s nice. I can depend on them.
ICE: (rolls eyes) I guess…
Ice finally opens up to tell her his philosophy on life: “If you ain’t true to yo’self, you ain’t true to nobody. Live yo’ life fo’ someone else, you ain’t livin’. Straight. Up. Fact.” Clearly Ice doesn’t believe in child support.
Miraculously, all this dismissive condescension has her eating out of the palm of his hand. They start making out in a montage of horseback riding, bike riding and unnecessary acrobatics while Vanilla Ice’s love ballad, “Never Wanna Be Without You” attempts to sell us this incongruous fantasy. It fails.
Ice later admitted that writing and recording “Never Wanna Be Without You” was his greatest regret. Even greater than his cocaine and heroin addiction? See for yourself with this snippet of the rappin’ Romeo’s lyrics:
“Love at first sight
Feelin’s in my heart
I hope that we will never part
You are the girl for me
And I wanna see
You and me together
Baby love, I’ll leave you never
Heartfelt emotions and desire,
I’m on fire
Your love can take me higher.
After this you know that I’ll never ever doubt ‘choo
‘Cause sweetheart, I never wanna be wit’out ‘choo”
Whatever happened to the arrogant misogynist? The hardcore honky badass? Could it all be an act? Just a whole lot of posturing and lip pouting? Say it ain’t so, homeboy.
V-Ice returns “Kat” home, surprisingly alive and unraped, only to find out that “Kat’s” pappy don’t want her to see him no more. It turns out “Kat’s” father is a former cop now part of the Witness Relocation Program. Remember that window scene where he thought he saw Ice-Man talkin’ conspiring with the bad dudes (also former cops, but crooked cops)? “Kat” takes her father’s word over the honky homeboy’s and gives Ice the cold shoulder. (That’s the last ice pun, I promise!)
Being the pouty primadonna that he is, Vanilla sulks away on his day-glo cycle declaring, “You know sumpfin’? You don’t know me, you don’t know me AT ALL.” Of course she doesn’t. Remember that scene at the construction site where he avoided answering ANY personal questions? What follows is an angst-filled musical montage of a sorta-sad (?) looking Vanilla Ice contemplating just how hard it is to be so rad.
Sections of this montage appear to have directly inspired David Brent’s “If You Don’t Know Me By Now” music vid from BBC’s “The Office.”
Meanwhile the bad dudes kidnap “Kat’s” little bro. The broken-nosed Dick is quick to blame it on our man Ice. After a quick forensic analysis of the audio ransom tape, Ice (or should I say, CSIce) identifies the thumping sound in the background as being from the abandoned construction site. Vanilla summons the Ice Squad, who unsurprisingly drive their cycles right through the wall of the construction site. They lay an impressive fight-dance beatdown on the kidnappers. Actually it’s pathetically anti-climatic. Dick and his drones put up more of a fight.
The generic crooks, whose names I didn’t even bother to remember, are brought to justice and “Kat’s” bro is returned to the ‘rents. As his mother fawns over him, the boy protests, “Mom, chill!” Uh oh, looks like we have a mini Vanilla Ice on our hands here! (Vanilla Snow?) When she asks if the kidnappers are responsible for his hideous Ice-inspired ‘do, he hollas “Hell no! I did it myself. Isn’t it BAD?” No argument here.
“Kat’s” pappy realizes the error of his ways and thanks Ice, who is now wearing a toque for some reason. Because he’s cool. As Ice! (I’m sorry, I’m sorry.)
As “Kat” prepares to leave town for an ill-advised career as a Vanilla Ice groupie, Dick drives up in his car and tells her she’ll never get to ride in it again. And how does the Dude Wit’ ‘Tude respond? He drives at the sports car at full speed. Instead of killing Dick horribly (as was most likely the plan), the bike jumps right over the car. By this point I’m too overwhelmed by Vanilla Ice’s ego to be impressed.
Flash forward a few months. The Ice Squad are once again dancing and rapping up a storm. But no more abandoned factories for them. This time they’ve found a real venue with all the luxuries. Like stage lights. And a stage.
And “Kat” is there too.
But judging by her disinterested expression, it looks like she’s realized she’s made a terrible mistake. Either that or actress Kristen Minter is regretting not reprising her role of Cousin Heather in Home Alone 2. But don’t you be frettin’ ‘bout the Ice-Man. He’s moved on. With one of his male dancers.
The film ends, leaving me with the impression that “Kat” was nothing more to Vanilla Ice than just another notch on his belt. His glittery neon belt. Don’t worry, “Kat.” Every “Ice Age” has gotta end sooner or later. Although Al Gore might tell us otherwise.
Cool as Ice is a failure in almost every sense of the word. The screenplay is pedestrian, listless. The story, almost non-existent. The characters are two-dimensional; the hero one-dimensional. The acting is universally bad, with Vanilla Ice in particular setting a new standard of low (one that wouldn’t be matched until Paris Hilton launched her acting “career”). Vanilla Ice’s clownish dress and unconvincing bad boy posturing make him a figure of ridicule all the more since he’s never aware of just how foolish he looks.
That said, this is one of the most entertaining “party movies” I’ve seen in a very long time. Despite its innumerable flaws, this film is head-and-shoulders above a failure like Going Overboard. When that film, a comedy, constantly failed at being funny, all the audience got out of it was an awkward and boring experience. When this film fails – and it frequently does – it becomes an unabashed giggle-fest. One of the funniest unintentional comedies I’ve ever seen. If Ice was really clued in to how silly he looked, Cool as Ice would be hailed as a work of true comic genius.
On a Technical and Artistic Level: 1½ Metal-Plated Baseball Caps out of 5
On a Pure Entertainment Level: 4½ Leather “Graffiti” Jackets out of 5
Yes, it’s a total fiasco, but I can’t recommend it highly enough.
2½ years after serving as Director of Photography for Cool as Ice, Janusz Kaminsky won the Oscar for Best Cinematography for Schindler’s List. Kaminsky has since served as Director of Photography for every subsequent Steven Spielberg film. Watch for the numerous “light beams in darkness”, a very Spielbergian visual motif, found throughout Cool as Ice.