By Mark Saldana
Rating: 2.5 (Out of 4 Stars)
When the Jem animated series first aired in 1985, I was twelve years-old and only into Transformers and G.I. Joe cartoons. Every time this gaudy and girlish cartoon would air I couldn’t change the channel fast enough. It just wasn’t cool for a pre-teen boy to enjoy that kind of show, regardless of the actual quality. Now that I am a forty-two year-old adult and a film critic, I am more open-minded when it comes to viewing material of all kinds. I know that I am clearly not the target demographic for the Jem and the Holograms live action adaptation, but I can still give an honest critique of whether or not the movie works and would definitely acknowledge its qualities without any trouble.
That said; the new movie adaptation of the 80s cartoon does have some entertaining moments, has an inventive style of storytelling that is resonant with the digital age, but also embraces the usual plot and character cliches common to movies about musical artists. In addition, a strange and nonsensical subplot involving a mysterious robot invention takes the film to a random and extraneous place and is an utter waste of time and energy. The overall result is rather messy; though I’m sure this will matter little to the movie’s target audience who will probably adore every silly minute of this movie.
Aubrey Peebles stars as Jerrica Benton, aka Jem, the lead singer of the Holograms and overnight internet sensation that has captured the hearts of people all over the world. Jerrica’s sisters Kimber (Stefanie Scott), Aja (Hayley Kiyoko), and Shana (Aurora Perrineau) dream of becoming rock superstars, but Jerrica herself would rather stay out of the spotlight. On a whim, Jerrica records herself singing with her identity concealed behind colorful makeup and hair. After Kimber uploads the video to Youtube, Jerrica, now dubbed Jem, becomes an internet superstar. This new-found fame captures the attention of record executive Erica Raymond (Juliette Lewis), a savvy mogul who can offer Jem and the Holograms success, but this success comes with a high price.
Writer Ryan Landels and director Jon M. Chu have taken Christy Marx’s animated series and given it a more realistic and less fantastical take. The problem with doing this is that it eliminates some of the imaginative charm that fans of the series enjoyed. The original cartoon had a stronger science-fiction feel with the band embarking on adventures. There’s really not much adventurous about this film adaptation. As I previously stated, Chu does bring to it an inventive style of storytelling by incorporating various Youtube clips that usually echo the mood and tone of the scenes with which they are paired. Still, this particular gimmick gets old and annoying after awhile.
The movie does succeed in offering some moderately entertaining and amusing humor. The songs of the Holograms are pure bubblegum pop, with some tunes catchier than others. The movie does have its winks and nods to the source material, but probably doesn’t embrace its inspiration enough to appease the film’s fan base which it”honors” with more Youtube clips during the film. Most of the cast delivers solid work, but no one really stands out. On the other hand, Juliette Lewis comes across as laughably caricaturesque as the proverbial wicked stepmother of the group.
I do honestly believe that its target demographic of pre-teen girls will adore everything that this movie has to offer. Fans of the animated series will probably be turned off by the film’s lack of faithfulness to the style of the animated series. As for everyone else, I cannot say that Jem and the Holograms has much else to offer them, save for a few goofy and silly laughs.