Certain movies these days try to get by on appealing to people’s nostalgia. Remakes and reboots of franchises and properties from American youth have become more and more commonplace in Hollywood. But once in a while, Hollywood gets the nostalgia right and crafts it into a truly memorable movie experience. While we’ve been sitting through some nostalgia trips at the movies that ranged from middling (Goosebumps) to awful (Pixels), Hollywood has finally *snicker* come up with a nostalgic movie *giggle* that is truly inspiring and worthwhile….
HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!! Sorry, I couldn’t keep my composure for this whole review. But in my defense, I needed a good laugh in an effort to wash away the flaccid ridiculousness of this Disney Channel Original Movie that somehow got a theatrical release.
Based on the animated kids show from the 1980s, Jem and the Holograms follows young Jerrica (Aubrey Peeples), a monotone-speaking shy girl living in suburban California with her aunt (Molly Ringwald) and three quirky sisters: little sister Kimber (Stefanie Scott) and her two foster sisters, Shana (Aurora Perrineau) and Aja (Hayley Kiyoko). Her sisters all share a passion for music, but Jerrica isn’t sure what she wants to do with her talent. One night, she decides to film herself playing a song on acoustic guitar wearing a pink wig and calling herself “Jem.” Kimber, believing in her sister’s talent, uploads the video on YouTube and it immediately becomes a sensation. So much so that record executive Erica Raymond (Juliette Lewis) sees “Jem” as the next big music star and whisks her and her sisters to Los Angeles. “Jem” and her sisters are turned into overnight pop sensations. But Erica thinks “Jem” can be bigger as a solo star and offers her more money, that would help Jerrica’s aunt from being evicted, so she will kick her sisters out of the spotlight. But Jerrica must look to the past (in the form of a small robot her father built before he passed away…seriously) to find out who she is now and what she wants for her future.
Disclaimer: I have not seen nor have any previous knowledge of the cartoon this movie is based on. When adaptations or reboots of other properties hit theaters, I judge them as to how they hold up as standalone movies and not how faithful they are to their source material. I figure I should put that out there since you know that I’m identifying Jem and the Holograms as a horrible movie on its own. In fact, Jem and the Holograms feels like a remake of an entirely different property: the 2001 live-action remake of Josie and the Pussycats. Seriously, it’s a rags-to-riches story about a girl rock band (and I use that term loosely for “Jem” and co.) who gets famous by an evil record executive trying to break the leader away from the band while she deals with being famous. Yeah, someone should’ve told the studios that it’s a bad sign when their movie adaptation of a kids’ cartoon show is almost exactly like another movie adaptation of a kids’ cartoon show from 14 years ago.
But here’s the bigger punchline: while Josie had some silly satire on subliminal messaging within 90s glossy teeny-pop music that made it funny, Jem has none of it. In fact, Jem has NOTHING going for it. The music in the movie is as annoying as everything on Radio Disney, it’s too cutesy to be funny, the plot is ridiculous, the actors are only here because they look pretty and it all goes nowhere. All the main actresses come off as annoying millennial teens who think being “internet famous” is the next best thing to being actually famous. “Jem” herself, Ms. Peeples, comes off looking like a discount Shailene Woodley and acting like a discount Bella Swan. It would’ve been nice to see Juliette Lewis take lessons from Parker Posey’s scenery-chewing performance in Josie since Lewis is basically playing the same character. Alas, Lewis doesn’t quite know whether or not to go full-on hammy or just roll along with whatever is going on in the movie without a care in the world. The movie is no different, as it’s so horribly paced (with the band getting signed, getting famous, breaking up and getting back together so quickly) that it wants to end the whole show as fast as the audience does.
And if the audience has seen any rock band-related movie before, they might as well have a Bingo card with all the movie clichés as spots so they can call them out. There’s the “singer pushes all the make-up off the table in frustration” scene, the “band gets glammed out with a new style for their famous look” scene, the “band finding out they’re being pushed aside for the singer to go solo” scene and the “montage of positive press and fans hyping the band up” scene. Just use the free space in the middle and that’s a Bingo! Also, there’s the subplot with the robot her father made that she has to rebuild to discover herself because…..robots are hip with teen girls? In case you’re wondering, no the robot doesn’t contain a hologram with Princess Leia saying “Jem” is her only hope. Oh and there’s a hot guy “Jem” gets to make out with at the end, just in case you didn’t want to use the free space on the cliché Bingo card.
Jem and the Holograms is a shallow, glittery girly-girl fantasy that, unless you have a high tolerance of cute and the ability to laugh at how stupid this whole thing is, may make you put your head through a wall. One of the more ridiculous things about the movie (and there are a few) is that the movie uses YouTube videos of people playing music in various ways as transitions between scenes and uses videos of “fans” saying how the music of “Jem” inspires them. A noble effort, if it wasn’t shoehorned in at the last minute as a way of saying “THIS MUSIC REALLY MATTERS, YOU GUYS!!!!!” And don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a bad movie because it’s aggressively girly. Mean Girls, Pitch Perfect, The Princess Bride and A League of Their Own have proven that girly movies can be great movies as long as there’s effort put into them. Jem and the Holograms has little to no effort put into it. I’m not exactly sure Jem is trying to accomplish anything, I don’t see a lot of Jem toys or t-shirts being sold anywhere and the soundtrack isn’t being pushed heavily on radio. It’s like the studio really pushed this movie to be big, then realized it wasn’t even worth it. Even the laughable silliness of the movie isn’t even worth the recommendation. Just rent the Josie and the Pussycats movie instead, at least that one you can intentionally laugh at.
Final Verdict: Get the F**k Outta Here/10 (0/10)