COOL AS ICE (1991) - directed by David Kellogg

It almost feels pointless to review a film like COOL AS ICE. Films designed to be glossy promo videos for music stars are virtually critic-proof in that nothing a reviewer can say could possibly dissuade audiences from going out to see it. Especially since the audience is most likely going to be fans of said star. All I can really do is offer a few thoughts on the flash-in-the-pan, ’90s sensation that was Vanilla Ice.

Or is he a flash-in-the-pan sensation?

Bring up the name Vanilla Ice and even people who didn’t grow up in the ’90s will most likely have heard of him and not  necessarily because of his TO THE EXTREME album or his infamous cameo in TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES II: THE SECRET OF THE OOZE (1991). Believe it or not, he’s still going strong today and continues to release music be it NuMetal covers of old classics or his equally bizarre collaborations with the Insane Clown Posse.

I have to admit that I own a copy TO THE EXTREME and even have aspirations of adapting it into a musical play. I even went to see him in concert here in Montreal back in the day. He’s a really fascinating case study in that had he come into his own in today’s music scene, he probably wouldn’t have been the butt of the severe derision he received back in his time.

Nowadays, white rappers are a dime a dozen and depending on whom you ask, often considered to be some of the better, if not, best rappers going today. Say what you will about the Insane Clown Posse, but I’d soon as rather listen to an entire album of them rapping about “cutting my back off for a small fee” than anything the “Jigga Man” has to spout.

Hip-Hop, or rather, mainstream hip-hop is basically pop music now and the criticism Vanilla Ice received back in the day for “watering down” rap and making it accessible to audiences who would never dream of listening to the stuff, would be unfounded and downright hypocritical due to the fact that that’s what all rappers seem to be doing nowadays. I’m sorry, but Snoop Dogg lost all credibility as a “gangsta” the minute he appeared in a Katy Perry video.

An argument could certainly be made that Vanilla Ice may very well have been ahead of his time in ushering in a new era of rap/pop consolidation and laid the foundation for the ICPs, Kid Rocks and Eminems to break into the business and forge their own legacies.

As far as where COOL AS ICE fits into things, it’s an amusing time capsule showcasing the leader of the V.I.P. posse in his prime, playing the James Dean role in this rap remake of REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE.

It’s also an extremely surreal experience featuring a plethora of ridiculous montages, weird fast-forward and slow-motion sequences, scenes of white people attempting to dance (and failing) designed to make Vanilla Ice look cooler by comparison and cinematography by none other than Janusz Kaminski(!), the Director of Photography on SCHINDLER’S LIST (1993).

The film’s loud and obnoxious aesthetic can probably be attributed to the fact that its director, David Kellogg, is primarily known for shooting behind-the-scenes videos for Playboy photo shoots as well as his work in music videos (he directed the JAM video for Michael Jackson and the LOVE OH LOVE one for Lionel Richie). The only other film to his credit was the live-action adaptation of INSPECTOR GADGET (1999).

In addition to being cult movie material, COOL AS ICE also offers an interesting look at American pop culture in the midst of a radical transformation. Politically, the country was in that “no man’s land” between the Regan years of the ’80s and the Clinton era of the ’90s and throughout the film you see that conflict between holding on the egregious excesses of the former and the budding nihilistic teen angst of the latter very clearly.

It’s actually a very fascinating bit of subtext whose subtlety and nuances are unfortunately overshadowed by the loudness of Vanilla Ice’s orange tang leather jacket.


  1. mistylayne says:

    I have never seen this movie. But I like what you wrote here – very interesting! 🙂

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