I remember a time when I thought the 90s were normal. Of course now that I’m older I understand that it was a big, goofy mess. That’s why by the time we hit the 2000s everything in the movies was grim, gritty darkety dark dark. But, out of the 90s we get some of our best worst movies. Only in the age of 1991 could anyone have thought to make a movie about “rapper” Vanilla Ice.
For you kids in the audience who only know Vanilla Ice as a home remodeler for (with?) the Amish, in the days before the First Age of the Internet, Vanilla Ice was a… I’m going to go with “musical performer” here. Anyway, after his major success ripping off Queen and David Bowie, someone decided that this man needed to have a major motion picture devoted to him. So they hired the first music video director they could find, went into the John Cusack room in Universal, grabbed the first script on top of the pile, and wrought Cool as Ice: The Vanilla Ice Movie. (Subtitle and redundancy are mine.)
For a certain generation of people, Cool as Ice was a legendary bad movie that would crop up on MTV at two in the morning. I first encountered it at the bastion of Cleveland bad cinema the Cedar Lee theatre, where one cold February evening I paid five dollars for a ticket to Cool as Ice and a scoop of vanilla ice cream. If you’re planning your own Cool as Ice viewing, I recommend this sort of a stick and carrot thing. “Oh god this movie’s so bad I think my brain’s going to melt I- mmm… ice cream…”
Cool as Ice opens with motorcycle-riding, rapper bad boy John Van Owen performing a gig in an abandoned warehouse from Saw, which apparently manufactured strobes before it was shut down. Vanilla Ice’s name is John Van Owen in this, but you will never refer to him as anything other than Vanilla Ice because his name is mentioned all of once. Naomi Campbell, who gets billed right after Vanilla Ice, appears in the first scene only to sing the hook for Ice’s sweet rhymes while strobes transmit subliminal messages into your brain. Did I mention there were strobes? So many strobes. Don’t watch this if you have a problem with strobes. This music video opening lasts for five minutes (seemingly days) and it has no relation to the plot of the actual movie.
Ice and his crew then ride out of the factory and after driving all night, they come across Kathy Winslow riding her horse in a field. After jumping his motorcycle over the fence and knocking Kathy off her horse, like a boss, ‘Nilla then begins the agonizingly awkward process of becoming a protagonist in a ‘90s teen romcom. He gives her this look, I swear, like ‘Hey baby, I just nearly murdered you, you know you want this.’
The plot of this film is like driving along a country highway with poorly marked curves. It’s nice and easy for a while sure, boy meets girl (more like grown-ass man meets grown-ass woman), boy meets girl again because he’s staying at a crazy inventor’s house while his buddy’s motorcycle gets repaired, wait– what? There are so many bizarre choices in this film it makes casting Vanilla Ice seem perfectly reasonable.
Bizarre Choice 1:
What’s a reason for a father to not like his daughter going out with anyone. More specifically Vanilla Ice?
Well there’s this:
He’s Vanilla Ice! He doesn’t need a reason for Kathy’s father to dislike him, and yet they decided there had to be another one. That reason? Gangsters.
Kathy’s parents are in witness protection, and two gangsters discover their location and come to threaten them.
What you thought this was a 90s teen romcom? You were so wrong!
Kathy’s father sees Ice talking to the gangsters, and therefore thinks he’s bad news.
Bizarre Choice 2:
This is one that will occur a lot in our bad movie selections, but it’s truly abysmal in Cool as Ice. The movie takes place over maybe a day and a half, and Kathy goes from meeting ‘Nilla and (implicitly) banging him in a field in 24 hours. That’s not some kind of moral judgement. If Kathy met Ice and wanted to bang him, publicly within a day, that would be fine! The problem is they go from strangers to acting like they’ve known each other for years.
Ladies, tell me if that makes sense to you:
Bizarre choice 3:
I can’t spoil it. I’m sorry, it involves an ice cube, you’ll know it when you see it.
So what do we have to take away from this movie about a stalkerish space-alien who comes to California to romance the whitest girl ever?
Well I think we’ll start a tradition with this article in that I will nominate a hero of our bad movie. Someone who did their best to save it, who really tried their hardest. Remember our fifth and most important rule: Someone had to try.
Our Bad Movie Hero:
I almost went with Michael Gross, who plays Kathy’s father, because this man is in an entirely different movie, and he is acting his heart out.
But really, if I am honest, there can only be one true hero of Cool as Ice…
It’s not that Vanilla Ice does anything objectively good in this movie. He is not a good actor, his line delivery makes it seem like he not only does not understand English, but language itself. But his insane self confidence, his lunatic commitment to his role as, let’s be honest, himself makes this film thoroughly enjoyable, and so lovably bad.