- Movie Rating -

Cool As Ice (1991)

| November 20, 1991 | 0 Comments

Watching the rise and fall of a flash-in-the-pan celebrity is always a little painful.  That is especially true in the case of Vanilla Ice, a man whose lack of discernible talent, coupled with his persistence on building a cottage industry upon one silly rap song, brought about the demise of his career in the early 90s almost before it got started. 

Never has one man done so much with so little.  Vanilla Ice – whose assumed stage name was apparently an improvement over Robbie Van Winkle – built his public persona on a square-jawed, white-as-an-eggshell rapper who could dance like Hammer and lay down some made rhymes, whatever that means.  His 15 minutes of fame came on the alter of his one hit, “Ice Ice Baby”, a dance rap that briefly became his signature.  It wasn’t much, song-wise, the lyrics were meaningless and the baseline was ripped off of Queen’s “Under Pressure” (which he denied).

He was also persistently dedicated to forming his own language based on annoying, yet marketable, buzzwords: “Word to ya mutha” and “Vanilla Ice melts in ya mouth not in ya hand.”  Wordsworth, he ain’t.

Added to his lack of talent, Vanilla Ice became a brand name, culminating his strange association with the Ninja Turtles.  Yet, even THAT wasn’t the most ridiculous choice made about his career.  The low-point was his desire – after proving every other lack of originality – to become a movie star.

NOW there’s a problem.  Here he’s entering the movie world, my world.  Its one thing for this egotistical blowhard to take a wrecking ball to the world of rap music, but it’s quite another for him to infiltrate the world of movies.  Fortunately his singular effort was so horrifying that he never got a chance to follow it up.

If I can find one thing about “Cool As Ice” to be impressed by, it may be that this eggshell talent managed to find a movie that is as flat, boring and generic as he is.  I’m not sure what the plan was, but based on the narrative (believe it or not, it has one), the movie seems to be wedged somewhere between an Afterschool Special and one of those annoying cereal commercials with lots of neon colors and frantic motion. All that’s missing a cartoon cat.

It also might be mistaken for being a remake of the Brando classic “The Wild One” if I were convinced that Vanilla Ice or his crew had ever even heard of that movie.  The movie is set in and around the luminousness that is Vanilla Ice.  He plays Johnny Van Owen, a rapper who dresses in clothes that look patched together from bits of neon fabric.  He travels around with his homies on motorcycles moving from gig to gig.

The image of Johnny is something to behold.  When he isn’t dancing and rapping (which makes up the first seven minutes of the movie) he is generally seen bathed in a swath of white light as if sent from Heaven on the back of a stupid looking yellow motorcycle.  His adventure begins when he comes across Kathy (Kristen Minter), a raven-haired beauty of the 2400 SAT set (believe it or not, Minter has the role originally offered to Gwyneth Paltrow). 

It isn’t enough for she and Johnny to simply have a relationship, but the movie gives her a jerko boyfriend (Victor DiMattia) and a father (played “Family Ties” star Michael Gross) who is in the Witness Protection Program.  Oh, and there’s a little brother who thinks Johnny is the second coming.

I must stop here and talk about an issue that can no longer go ignored.  The issue being Janusz Kaminski, the great Polish cinematographer whose career was capped by an Oscar win for “Schindler’s List” and then such distinguished credits as “Saving Private Ryan”, “Catch Me If You Can”, “Jerry Maquire”, “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” and “Lincoln.”  YET, his career began with the Vanilla Ice vehicle “Cool As Ice.”  You have to wonder if he leaves it off his resume.

In doing some digging, I find a quote from the great D.P. and I uncovered this one: “Truly, when you look at a horse, there are no emotions in its eyes. They don’t blink, they don’t smile and they don’t get sad. They just get tired.”  I have to wonder if he was thinking of Vanilla Ice when he said that.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1991) View IMDB Filed in: Action, Musical