It wasn’t that long ago that a certain white “rapper” ruled the air waves, topping the charts giving every white kid from here to Salt Lake City the idea that they, too, could be a rapper, make millions, drive rag-tops and get all the girlies they could handle.
If you guessed that I was talking about Eminem, well, you guessed wrong. There’s only one rapper that fits the above bill and that is the one and only Robert Van Winkle, aka Vanilla Ice.
He waxes chumps like a candle…while wearing airbrushed overalls.
If you haven’t heard of VI, you better recognize. Hailing from the rough and tumble streets of Dallas, Texas, Robbie Van Winkle apparently moved to South Florida, specifically the Miami area, you know, where they created all the bass sound, where he perfected his style of rap. After catching the eye of Public Enemy of all people (and seen as a marketable commodity rather than a talent of note), Ice was signed to a record contract and the marketing machines (CHA CHING!) heated up seeing the possibilities. Ice‘s first single, “Ice Ice Baby” quickly implanted itself in the ear of everyone from ages 9-25, becoming the first rap single to top the Billboard charts. The full album To the Extreme sat at #1 for 16 weeks. “Ice Ice Baby” is notoriously bad, a pure extract of the early 90s music landscape that allowed such acts as Nelson, EMF and Wreckx-n-Effect to make money. It may be more famous not for its meteoric rise to the top of the charts, but for the fact that it was one of the first songs ever litigated for stealing/sampling without giving credit to its original artists, in this case it pilfered the song “Under Pressure” performed by Queen and David Bowie of its iconic bassline for the hook. Here is VI‘s hilarious explanation as to how the two songs differ along with some other witticisms:
Needless to say, he lost that legal battle. In the mad scramble to capitalize on this cash cow before everyone in America realized he was a dildo with no talent, Cool As Ice was put into production and released in theaters in October of 1991. And I stand here today to say that I am thankful for this as it has provided me and plenty of folks I know an endless amount of unintended comedy in the 21+ years since its release.
The quick synopsis of Cool As Ice is as follows (because that’s all that’s really necessary) – a street-savvy white guy with three African-American friends are inexplicably riding their motorcycles through a remote part of the country.When Johnny (Vanilla Ice) spots Kat (Kristen Minter) riding her horse, he knows he has to try to get with her. Lucky for him, his boy’s bike breaks down and they remain stuck while they wait for an eccentric couple to to get the part to fix it. Of course, Kat has a boyfriend, Nick (John Newton) and Johnny squares off with him in an effort to show Kat the error of her ways. With a simple line, “Drop that zero and get with the hero,” you know that the hilarity will continue in this pursuit and is just the right recipe to keep your attention. When it comes out that Kat’s family are in the witness protection program and that her superb academic exploits and the press that she garners from them have broken their cover, an inane and ridiculous subplot involving gangsters and crooked cops surfaces, allowing Johnny to save the day, capture Kat’s heart and get her unapproving parents’ blessing.
If you ain’t true to yourself, you ain’t true to nobody.
Billed as an update of Rebel Without Cause, one must simply LAUGH OUT LOUD at that notion. In no way do the two films compare. Rebel Without a Cause was a treatise on the misunderstood teen, teen angst and the bucking of authority. Cool As Ice really doesn’t hit on any of those themes. It also had a charismatic leading man poised to take over Hollywood. Cool As Ice clearly didn’t. This is a thinly veiled vehicle for Vanilla Ice to do nothing more than strike while the iron’s hot. There are no lessons learned, no knowledge gained, no bit taken that could give one a better understanding of youth at the time this film was released. Well, other than audiences who were fans of Vanilla Ice were exploitable. At least the film companies who made Cool As Ice and the studios who distributed it thought they were. It was a FLOP and no surprise taking in only $1.2 million at the box office (with a $6 million budget) and critically it stands at an 8% on Rotten Tomatoes. All this said, I still enjoy Cool As Ice for what it is – BAD filmmaking, acting and music. This film would top my list of SO BAD IT’S GOOD movies. I love it and still watch it on the regular. 91 minutes of pure awesomeness.
Yep, yep…she likes me.
When Johnny gives Kat the slow-motion look as she rides her horse, it is arguably the funniest (unintendedly so) look ever put on film. Check it out:
Never mind the absurd notion that Johnny could jump over the fence without help of a ramp or any other launching object. That scene is the essence of the film and everything that is so awful, yet so good about it. What should one expect from a director (David Kellogg) whose pre-Cool As Ice resume is ten different Playboy videos including Playboy: Farmer’s Daughters and Playboy: Wet & Wild.
And yes, let’s not forget this slice of ear murder from the priceless soundtrack:
I hope Sly Stone can get some royalty checks from that song so he doesn’t have to be homeless anymore. Old boy clearly needed the ducats if he allowed that song to be butchered in such a manner.
And maybe the craziest thing about this movie is that Janusz Kaminski, the famed Polish cinematographer, shot this film. This is the same man behind the photography for Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan and most every Steven Spielberg film since. Truly unbelievable. And the sad thing is, I can’t even say that the photography was good in any sense of the word.
Let’s not fault Vanilla Ice (or let’s do…) for this film. If I had people throwing money at me like he did for trash like this, I might have done it in half a heartbeat. The guy was the king of the world for about 8 months, and remains a joke to this day. The $20 million or whatever he made is surely worth that, right? That’s the American Dream in a nutshell and one too many of us would jump at (hello, reality TV – Kardashians anyone?).
Here’s the trailer: