By: BabyRuth (Six Pack) –
1991 was a monumental year in film. It gave us The Silence of the Lambs, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, and Beauty and the Beast.
It also gave us Cool As Ice.
For anyone who didn’t have the pleasure of living through the early 90s, it was a magical time that can never be duplicated. It was also a very strange time in which a film like Cool As Ice would only ever exist. The movie was a 6 million dollar attempt to capitalize on Vanilla Ice’s success (it only grossed a little over 1M so… so much for that crackerjack genius idea.)
I’m not sure how this gem has not yet been covered on this site, but it’s a wrong that needs to be righted, so let’s g-o.
Vanilla Ice stars as a rapper-dancer extraordinaire/tough biker gang leader/orphan/nomad riding from gig to gig with his fluorescently dressed posse, schlinging schlongs, breaking hearts, and solving crimes along the way.
To get you in the right frame of mind, I present the trailer. Please keep in mind, this is 100% serious.
Don’t be so quick as to roll your eyes and write this off as simply a bad movie starring a musician (see: Crossroads). Cool As Ice is special, yup yup.
What sets Cool As Ice apart from others is how bizarre it is on every single level.
For starters, the look of it is so bright and manic that I would advise those with epilepsy against watching it (and that is hard to do because everyone should watch it). I’m guessing the aesthetics are a result of the producers ordering those involved to make “something hip for the short-attention spanned kids—you know, something that looks like those MTV videos.” And then the filmmakers watched exactly one music video and said “Okay, got it!” That video was surely DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince’s (that would be Will Smith to you kiddos) “Parents Just Don’t Understand.” Because the whole movie has the exact same feel. It’s insane, and I mean insane in the best possible way. There are bizarre angles and cuts and one scene is even sped up for some reason which sort of makes it frightening, you know, like in Requiem for a Dream (which came out nine years later by the way. Hmmmm.)?
Jump to the 30 second mark.
It’s worth mentioning here that one of the people responsible for the look of this movie is cinematographer Janusz Kaminski, who would later go on to win Oscars for his work on Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan, along with dozens of other nominations and critically-acclaimed films. This is absolutely true; go on and check IMDB if you don’t believe me.
Speaking of music videos, this movie is essentially one large music video. There are so many performances and montages, it’s easy to forget there is an actual plot (much like fellow early 90s extravaganza Graffiti Bridge, which looks like Singin’ in the Rain compared to Cool As Ice).
We are treated to a five-minute-long opening number featuring a “special appearance” by Naomi Campbell as the lady who sings the hook in between Vanilla Ice’s verses, a la C+C Music Factory (I feel like I’m losing the younger Boozers with my references. Are you guys still with me?)
I love how Naomi Campbell was such a big get that despite only being in that one scene, she’s prominently featured on the DVD cover and listed as the third main actor in the movie (sorry Michael Gross).
Star Search Spokesmodel Winner and “Cherry Pie” girl Bobbie Brown also has a featured cameo. Because, again, 90s.
And then there is the dancing. So much dancing. What I’m saying is, it’s amazing.
The fashion also deserves a toast of its own.
Don’t even act like you don’t find this breathtaking.
It’s worth noting that Vanilla Ice did all of his own motorcycle stunts and that’s pretty damn impressive so cheers to you Ice! I wish I could figure out how he got his bike to jump a fence and a second-story window without a ramp though. It must be one of those magical levitating motorcycles.
So as Vanil—I guess I should refer to him as Johnny, since that is his character’s name, even though we don’t learn it until about halfway through—and his crew are rolling through the about-to-be-shaken-up small town, there are a few slo-mo shots of the residents in open-mouthed amazement at the spectacle they are beholding. They’ve never seen anything like it!
But then Johnny and his posse happen upon this monstrosity, which is apparently totally normal to the locals.
Sadly the house no longer looks like that, so no need to plan that trip to Glendora, CA.
No, our hero hasn’t accidentally wandered into a Tim Burton film, this house happens to be a motorcycle repair shop/bed & breakfast/acid trip which is very good luck because one of Johnny’s homeboys’ bike broke down in the scene before. The old couple who own the crazy house are just as wacky as you’d imagine. And just you wait until they dance!
(If the lady looks familiar it’s because she also played Blanche in Grease and more importantly Mrs. Stimler in Splash )
But they are nice people and put Johnny and his friends up indefinitely while fixing the bike and feeding everyone peanut butter-sardine-pineapple-pickle-mustard sandwiches. Wacky!
It’s almost too much wacky to take! You can nearly hear the producers saying “the kids are gonna think this is hysterical!” (To their credit, they were right, just not in the way they were hoping.)
It’s fortunate for Johnny that he and his crew have to chill in Bumblefuck, Smalltown for a few days because that gives him plenty of time to put his sweet moves on good-girl Kathy (Kristin Minter)—whose name he cleverly shortens to “Kat”.
Of course, the multi-talented Johnny is also a master of seduction. Here are a few moves from his playbook:
- Jumping his bike over a fence (you don’t need no ramps when you’re as cool as ice), startling Kat’s horse and almost paralyzing her in the process.
- Complimenting a girl on her sucker punching skills while sounding like a third grader: “You hit pretty good, for a GIRRRRL.
- Showing up to her house unannounced and insulting her boyfriend—<<record scratch>>
Okay we need to stop here for a moment and watch this scene in its entirety because it is truly one of the most incredible things ever put to celluloid. Of course, it contains the famous “Drop that zero and get with a hero” line, but that is just the icing (pun intended). The whole thing is so captivating, from the beginning with Ice hanging out in front of the Crazy House doing the gotta go pee pee dance, to the disembodied “AWW YEAH,” to the fly entrance music accompanying his walk to “I’m just coolin” immediately followed by the Blue Steel, to—just watch! I dare you to watch it only once.
Pretty sure Justin Bieber modeled his whole career after this scene.
But that’s not all! Then there’s:
- Stealing her daily planner (a move later used to the same success in 27 Dresses – seriously, how many movies stole from Cool As Ice?- It’s almost as bad as ripping off a classic bass line and calling it your own brand new invention.)
- Dry-humping her in the middle of the dance floor at the hot club called The Sugar Shack after hijacking the stage and dropping some sick rhymes on the unprepared town squares all while wearing the most amazing jacket in the history of the world.
- Breaking into her bedroom and force-feeding her ice in her sleep. Seriously, that happens and she’s totally cool with it. Cool as ice. With ice. And Ice, who is not Ice, but Johnny.
There’s only so much a girl can resist, amIright ladies?
Soon Johnny and Kat are love montaging in the most romantic setting ever: a construction site.
Aww yeahhh. DANGER! LUST! FANNYPACK!
It’s here where I needed to chug a quick beer because I noticed something strange happening. I was starting to find myself oddly charmed by this movie and Vanilla Ice himself.
I know, I know.
Let me attempt to explain: Now, if I saw 1991 Vanilla Ice walking down the street I’d want to punch him in the face. Repeatedly. However, in the context of this movie, where we as the audience are forced to accept his character as the most awesome person in the world, well, I’m kind of buying into it. (Credit also to Kristin Minter, who brings the best out of him, acting-wise, and the pair actually have remarkably effective chemistry).
No, you’re googling the Vanilla Ice photos from Madonna’s Sex book…
This isn’t just a love story though, there is crime and intrigue!
In a subplot that definitely wasn’t written on a cocktail napkin after three Scotches halfway through the filming of this movie, we learn that Kat’s dad, played by Michael Gross (Family Ties, Tremors) is a former police officer who is in the witness protection program after ratting out some dirty fellow cops. Well, guess who was just released from prison and looking for revenge?
The dollar store version of the Wet Bandits find out where Michael-just give me the damn paycheck-Gross lives because of a local TV news story about Kat’s many accomplishments (riding a horse, getting accepted into a college, making Vanilla Ice look like a viable romantic lead). Damn that overachieving daughter of his! And damn that local news station broadcasting nationally… somehow!
So the two bad guys make their presence known by popping up at the house, stalking Kat, breaking in—wait, my bad, that’s what Johnny does. But they are the bad ones. They want money!
Naturally, Kat’s dad assumes Johnny is working with the bad guys, due to movie contrivances like Johnny asking them for directions to the Sugar Shack (I really hope you all are following along) and forbids Kat from seeing him! Drama!
You know what this means…
Time for a sad montage.
Kat has an awful little brother. The Not Wet Bandits do the family a favor by kidnapping him but everyone is sad and actually want him back. There’s a ransom tape, which Johnny unknowingly delivers, further making it seem like he is working with the Not Wet Bandits. Instead of going to the police, or you know, the witness protection program people, the family stands around wondering what to do. Kat decides that there is only one person who can help them.
She brings the tape to Johnny, who literally stops, collaborates, and listens and then figures out where the bad guys are keeping her brother and saves the day!
I forgot to mention that Johnny is also an expert fighter, easily taking down any and every opponent (one-by-one, of course) who dares challenge him. And with cartoon sound effects!
He learned from the best.
Have you been paying attention? Go watch this right now. Not later. Not ta-ma-row. This movie is a goddamn funky fresh day-glo early 90s time capsule masterpiece mindfuck that is endlessly re-watchable. Word to your mother.
Cool as Ice (1991) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: for every “yup yup”
Take a Drink: at every spontaneous cut to someone dancing
Take a Drink: for every montage
Take a Drink: Crazy House!
Take a Drink: giant salt shaker
Take a Drink: disgusting sandwich
Take a Drink: whenever anyone says “Sugar Shack”
Take a Drink: after reciting each phrase you can read on Vanilla Ice’s amazing black and white coat
Take a Drink: for every cartoon sound effect, record scratch, or “AWWW YEAH” out of nowhere
Do a Shot: whenever Vanilla Ice jumps his motorcycle over something (without a ramp!)
Do a Shot: for the following lines:
- “You know the chick that drives the horse?”
- “I’m just coolin’”
- “So what’s up for ta-ma-row?”
- “Homeboy this!”
- “You’re seein’ me now.”
- “Drop that zero and get with a hero.”
- “Let’s G-O!”
LAST CALL: After watching an hour and a half of Vanilla Ice barely being able to form a complete sentence, he pops up during the credits to remind kids to “b kool stay n skool.” Alright then.