Cool as Ice

Oh no, I forgot COOL AS ICE in my “Quick Trips” entry! Ultimate Quick Trip….down memory lane!

Once again at Steve’s house, where so many of the good things in my life take place, I was treated to a visual feast that left my eyes ruined for all the tawdry colors and fashion choices of the humdrum modern world forevermore. Yes, I can only be talking about: COOL!……….AS ICE

This 1991 narrative Vanilla Ice vehicle tells the stirring tale of Johnny Van Owen (Ice), the enormously puffy fluorescent fabric-clad leader of what appears to be a bi-racial gang of crotch-rocket-riding, rapping, high-fashion orphans, who answer to no man and who call no land home. We first meet them at some sort of dance or concert? In a warehouse. And Naomi Campbell is a backup singer. Everyone does the Cabbage Patch, my second favorite 90s dance. Later they do my first-favorite. I’ll let you guess what that is.

In the first of many moments where we found ourselves surprised into complimenting this film, Steve and I both agreed that Vanilla Ice is actually a really good dancer. A little bit later, my brow furrowed in confused concentration, I haltingly asked “Is Vanilla Ice…..like……HANDSOME??” The nigh-on-two-decades of brittle irony separating my current self from the version that actually owned To The Extreme on cassette cracked a little bit and I felt like I was gazing at Vanilla Ice, the human man, in a bit of a realistic, albeit dim, way. Verdict: Vanilla Ice was (is?) indeed handsome. Mind blown!

As the ragtag gang of fashion motorcycle rappers makes their way across the American countryside, they come across what is clearly a Rich Girl, riding a horse, on the other side of a fence separating some sort of stately grounds from the plebeian highway. Obviously Vanilla Ice immediately jumps his motorcycle over the fence, à la Steve McQueen in the Great Escape, almost killing the girl and her horse in the process. He finds her fury to be adorable, and asks her what her problem is. She punches him and rides her horse away like FUCK YOU, TOWNIE. Also, she is a prep.

Then as the gang pulls into a town, the comical one (he is overweight, thus comical) is all “Daaamn” and “oh man” and stuff, because his motorcycle has broken down! His masculinity eroded to a pitiful nub of what once it was, he finds himself towed via some sort of rope into a residential street where there is inexplicably a motorcycle repair shop run by two hilarious old hillbillies who I still think might actually have been figments of the gang’s imagination, like some sort of post-Revolutionary French short story involving a sensitive young man fainting and believing he has had sex with an ancient Egyptian mummy.

This older couple sets to work repairing the motorcycle while the motley crew of rapping misfits just sort of hangs out and makes “wah-wah” faces at each other concerning how square the couple is. Unbeknownst to them, this will become a match made in heaven, and will culminate in the old couple not only fixing the motorcycle, but lying to the police in order to absolve Vanilla Ice of a terrible kidnapping.

Vanilla then goes directly to the home of that girl who he almost killed on the horse. She dates a 1980s movie clich√© of a shitty rich boy, like we might just as easily encounter him being sexually humiliated in the triumphant climax of Animal House, or thwarting Molly Ringwald’s great love by giving Andrew McCarthy class anxiety.

The girl (“Kat”) is like “you suck, turkey!” but Ice plays it so fucking cool you guys. Here once again I realized I was complimenting the film. I believe my actual words were “they have really good chemistry.” In spite of a later scene where he sneaks into her bedroom and wakes her up by dropping a whole huge ice cube into her mouth and basically choking her, somehow the relationship feels sort of sincere. And I mean, there is the whole concept of the bad boy helping her to liberate herself from her dumb oppressive gender-normative relationship with the preppy rich boy who thinks he owns her, and getting to ride off on a motorcycle at the end of the movie with a boy who is actually nice to her, which, I’m not complaining, it was 1991 and you had to take what you could get when it came to teen relationships in films.

The rest of the plot is sort of convoluted but basically Kat’s dad, the dad from Growing Pains, it turns out is in the witness protection program, and due to his daughter being interviewed on the news apparently just for liking her parents and getting good grades, his old criminal cronies find him, and they kidnap the little son, and Vanilla Ice saves the day. The son also plays a videogame that can be aurally identified as Super Mario 3, which then reminded me of how the whole world was introduced to that amazing game via the climax of the Fred Savage vehicle THE WIZARD. Remember how cool the mean bully in that movie made the PowerGlove look? And remember how lame the PowerGlove actually was?

But betwixt all that, there is a really epic love scene montage set in an abandoned construction site and involving Ice and the girl making out in every position you could conceivably manage while atop a neon motorcycle. They also play tag, and at one point Ice takes off his shirt, which I felt was a mistake, because then he started reminding me of the boy I dated in high school, all skinny white skin and blonde hair bristling with gel and a single earring and Jimmy Buffet on the tape deck. Not that Vanilla Ice would be caught dead listening to Jimmy Buffet. He’s a human being, after all.

And there is a scene where the gang goes and crashes a lame preppy school dance, where a bloated sweaty “rock band” is limping half-heartedly through shitty music, and then suddenly there’s a turntable there and the gang unplugs the amps and the band is like “HUH?” and they plug in the record player and somebody starts yelling into a mic and suddenly the gang is totally breakdancing and rapping and scratching and whatever else you call the stuff DJs and rappers were doing in the early 90s. This was the best scene in the film, due largely to the copious cut-aways to the faces of various lame preppies upon which their jaws were hanging literally agape, like these people are actually feeling their minds explode with the fucking awesomeness of the spectacle they are being unexpectedly treated to. Then Ice sexy-dances with Kat, which prompts her boyfriend to grab her in a rough way, which prompts her to run away from him and suddenly she’s, like, all alone in some creepy part of town in the middle of the night and the old cronies of her father are about to grab her and obviously rape her but Ice suddenly screeches up on his bike and is like DITCH THESE ZEROES AND GET WITH A HERO BABY and he revs her to safety and some super hot frenching action.

The best part of the movie is obviously the fashion, though. It is LITERALLY NOT ABLE TO BE BELIEVED, the way people look in this movie. I kept having to stop and ask myself, was I alive when this movie was made? Was this really even a small part of the world I inhabited? There was obviously a time when the people in this movie would have been understood as looking pretty cool. Vanilla Ice’s outfits are legitimately insane. There are fanny packs involved, and gigantic leather coats with tic-tac-toe on them, and overalls worn with the top part undone and flapping around, and neon everything, and crazy angular hairstyles, and sunglasses that are like, I don’t even know how to describe them. Also Kat at several points is wearing Ultimate Mom Jeans, which it’s so weird to remember that that’s what jeans used to be like!

At the end she goes to college and Ice is like “I gotta be me baby” and she gets on the back of his motorcycle for one more night of hot frenching before she has to fly to Harvard or whatever, and then he literally rides his motorcycle up over the car of the shitty preppy boyfriend, and everyone standing around laughs and cheers and that’s the end of the movie.

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