Johnny Van Owen (Robert “Vanilla Ice” Van Winkle) is a rapper who travels across the country on his big yellow motorcycle, with his loyal crew traveling behind him. When one of the motorcycles is damaged, Johnny and the crew pull into a repair shop owned by Roscoe (Sidney Lassick) and Mae (Dody Goodman). Even though their repair shop looks like something out of Pee Wee’s Playhouse, Mae says that Roscoe can fix anything.
Johnny says it’s all cool because he’s got his eye on Kathy Winslow (Kristin Minter), an honors student who is about to leave for college and who is dating Nick (John Haymes Newton). Johnny is so in love with Kathy that he rides his motorcycle in front of her while she’s riding a horse and she nearly breaks her neck as a result. Johnny doesn’t apologize because Johnny’s cool as ice. Instead, Johnny renames Kathy “Kat” and then takes one look at Nick and says, “Drop that zero and get yourself a hero.” Just to make sure there’s no confusion how Johnny feels about his romantic rival, he also calls Nick “Dick.” Later, Johnny performs a rap just for Kat and Kat agrees to go on a date with him to an abandoned construction site.
Kat’s father (Michael Gross) is in the witness protection program but, when he and Kathy appear on the news, he’s spotted by two gangsters who kidnap Kat’s younger brother. Kat’s father assumes that Johnny must be working with the gangsters so Johnny has to clear his name by defeating the gangsters and performing the rap to end all raps.
Cool As Ice was an attempt to update the old Elvis formula with infamous white rapper Vanilla Ice in the place of the King of Rock and Roll. The end result was a box office flop that hastened the demise of Vanilla Ice’s career. (At the same time the film came out, some journalists dug into Ice’s background and discovered that he wasn’t a gangster from Miami but instead he was a douchey ex-jock from Lake Highlands, Texas.) Even today, it’s still surprising to see what a terrible actor Vanilla Ice truly was. The role doesn’t demand that he do much, other than smirk and rhyme a few insults but Vanilla Ice wasn’t even up to successfully doing that. Most musicians at least have enough stage presence that they can get by onscreen, even if they don’t have a large amount of range. Vanilla Ice is a blank onscreen. It doesn’t do Vanilla Ice any favors that he’s surrounded by people who actually can act, like Michael Gross, Kristin Minter, and Sidney Lassick. Even John Haymes Newton, playing the stock bad boyfriend role, gives a better and more sympathetic performance than Vanilla Ice.
I went into this movie knowing that it would be bad but I had no way of preparing myself for just how bad it was. It’s almost so bad that it’s watchable, though for all the wrong reasons. Watching Vanilla Ice in this movie, I saw why grunge (and not poppy white boy rap) replaced hair metal as the 90s favorite music.
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