There's obviously no shortage of hilariously bad movies in the world, lest forget that less than a year ago, several acclaimed British actors strapped on skin-tight green outfits to participate in one dude's feline sex fantasy. But for some reason, recently our thoughts have turned to one of the, most truly baffling cinematic experiences of all-time: Cool As Ice starring Vanilla Ice, and a bunch of other people who probably don't want us reminding everybody that they were in Cool as Ice.
Perhaps it's because we just have Ice on the brain thanks to the news of his upcoming biopic. Or perhaps it's because we're slowly going mad thanks to the perpetual Hellscape that is 2020. In either case, we thought we'd take a stroll down memory lane -- or at least the douchey back alley behind memory lane -- to discuss this gloriously terrible motion picture.
The year was 1991. George H.W. Bush was president. The U.S. economy was almost entirely dependent upon bootleg t-shirts of Bart Simpson. And despite sounding like a frozen Starbucks beverage, white rapper Vanilla Ice was a giant friggin' star thanks to the racism of American DJs and good, old-fashioned intellectual property theft.
Ice sold millions of albums and became a household name. His star shone so brightly, he inspired a doll more cursed than Annabelle and Chucky put together. Then he made the leap to the big screen with a cameo in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze. They even sold VHS tapes featuring both the music video and an interview with Vanilla Ice unpacking the rigorous artistic process that led to the creation of "Ninja Rap."
This, of course, led to a starring role in his own feature film. Ice claims he was paid $1 million dollars for Cool as Ice, which somehow seems like both way too much and not nearly enough. While other pop stars have made the transition into movies, artists like Elvis and The Beatles were actually given stories to work with. Even Crossroads starring Britney Spears is chock full of melodrama. But Cool as Ice barely even qualifies as a movie. It's as if a writers' strike suddenly hit and the director just decided to film some gibberish that the screenwriter had scrawled on a cocktail napkin.
Ice plays rapper extraordinaire Johnny Van Owen, who we first glimpse performing at a hip club that may or may not be housed inside an abandoned industrial fan and strobe light factory. They party all night, and in the morning, Johnny and his friends hit the road on a small fleet of motorcycles. As they pass a woman horseback riding, either due to the effects of sleep deprivation or thanks to some kind of cocaine-fueled mania, Johnny not only races her but promptly jumps his bike over the fence! Which causes this stranger's horse to freak out and throw her to the ground. Thankfully, this somehow leads to an adorable meet-cute and not a Christopher Reeve-like tragedy.
Soon after, one of Johnny's pals has a slight motorcycle problem. Instead of taking it to a licensed mechanic, the gang holes up with a random elderly couple living in what looks like a cross between Pee Wee's Playhouse and the Heaven's Gate compound.
We're only eleven minutes into this thing before we get an extended montage showing Johnny and his friends as they eat various revolting foods inside this nightmare house, all while Johnny dances in a strangers' driveway.
As he's awkwardly gyrating for the neighbors' amusement, Johnny spies the same young woman he nearly murdered just a few hours earlier. So he decides ... to stalk her? It turns out her name is Kathy, an entitled rich kid who, you have to imagine, would have nothing in common with Johnny who ... actually, as a drifter decked out in fancy clothes and riding an expensive motorcycle, seems like even more of an entitled rich kid.
Despite the fact that Kathy has a boyfriend and, you know, her own personal space, Johnny aggressively hits on her. When that doesn't work, he steals her personal organizer. Which is less "cool as ice" and more "creepy as hell." As he leaves, Johnny tells Kathy to: "Drop that zero and get with the hero" -- the "zero" being her boyfriend, and the "hero" being this possibly homeless sociopath in a DayGlo jacket. Because she is not an actual human being, Kathy finds this all insanely charming.
Johnny's big plan involves just going back to Kathy's house, which is across the street from the funky asylum where he's still living for some reason. So why he felt the need to steal her organizer remains unclear. Johnny tags along with Kathy and her friends as they head to the local rock club -- which in Vanilla Ice's brain is apparently brightly-lit high school gym where sleazy-looking dudes in dress shirts play slow, atonal music for bored nerds.
Because, again, this character is a raging sociopath, Johnny unplugs the band mid-song and launches into an unsanctioned rap performance. And speaking of things no one else consented to, his impromptu show involves basically dry-humping Kathy on the dance floor while her friends look on in horror.
Kathy's boyfriend Nick responds to all this by organizing his own posse of street toughs and jumping Johnny, resulting in the most slow-moving and unconvincing fight scene in movie history. And in perhaps the most unnerving scene of all, one morning Kathy wakes up in her bedroom to find Vanilla Ice on her bed, slowly dropping a melting ice cube onto her before he shoves it, and his filthy digits, into her mouth. As further evidence that Kathy is a pretend person concocted by a bunch of dudes, she's totally fine with this serial killer's courtship gesture.
We should probably mention that the cinematographer of this movie was Janusz Kaminski, who became Steven Spielberg's trusted collaborator. That means that the guy who composed the heartbreaking, black and white images of the Academy Award-winning Schindler's List was, just two years earlier, figuring out what lens would best capture a shirtless Vanilla Ice making out with his girlfriend in the middle of the desert.
If moviegoers hadn't already left their seats and physically attacked the projectionist by this point, the big ending finds Johnny rescuing Kathy's brother from the clutches of corrupt cops who are trying to get back at her dad (played by Michael Gross from Family Ties and Tremors) who is in witness protection. Yeah.
Unsurprisingly, this movie wasn't exactly a hit. Foretelling the steep decline of its star's popularity, Cool as Ice made slightly more than $1 million at the box office and was "yanked from theatres after less than three weeks." In retrospect, perhaps he should have just stolen a plot (and a comically oversized codpiece) from one of David Bowie's many films. Play us out, disgusting drippy ice cube scene.
Top Image: Universal Pictures