The popular 1980s animated series Jem and the Holograms gets a glossy big-screen makeover in this formulaic but entertaining live-action movie that takes several key liberties with its source material. Fans of the original cartoon may object to some of the truly outrageous changes, but the updates mostly serve to enhance the story rather than distract from it, and younger viewers, especially ’tween girls, will appreciate its uplifting music and positive messages of tolerance and empowerment.
Orphans Jerrica Benton (Aubrey Peeples) and her sister Kimber (Stefanie Scott) live with their Aunt Bailey (Molly Ringwald) and Bailey’s two foster children, Aja (Hayley Kiyoko) and Shana (Aurora Perrineau), in a small California town. All four teens are musically inclined, but Jerrica is the best singer and writes introspective songs she would rather keep private. Eventually, Kimber convinces her to record a video, so Jerrica dons a wig, applies some glitzy makeup and performs as her alter-ego Jem. Kimber uploads the video to the Internet and overnight Jem becomes the Web’s hottest sensation. Fans clamor to know more about her and the buzz gets Hollywood’s attention. Soon, unscrupulous music mogul Erica Raymond (Juliette Lewis) from Starlight Music comes calling and whisks the girls away to Los Angeles, where she immediately begins crafting their image with plans to turn them into rock stars. At least that’s what she says. She really only wants Jem and pressures her into signing a solo contract, which leads to a fallout with her three siblings. Erica also places Jem under the watchful eyes of her hunky son, Rio (Ryan Guzman), who thinks mom is taking the family-owned biz in a perilous direction and not fostering true talent.
The story takes a bizarre turn when Synergy, a mini-robot Jerrica’s dad created shortly before he died, chirps to life and sends the girls on a scavenger hunt throughout L.A. to uncover clues that will ultimately help Jerrica realize her full potential. In the TV series, Synergy is a sophisticated computer that enables Jerrica to transform into rock star Jem via ultra-cool holographic projections. It makes sense to change Synergy into a cute robot for the movie but, unfortunately, Synergy is an unnecessary distraction and puts the girls in less-than-credible scenarios that only serve to heighten the story’s improbability. Synergy’s screen time would have been better used to flesh out the stereotypical characters and dig deeper into Jem’s meteoric rise.
Peeples, so good as backstabbing country singer Layla Grant in Nashville, makes the most of her star turn and delivers the film’s strong power ballads with warmth and sensitivity; and the casting of Ringwald brings a welcome bit of ’80s nostalgia to the picture. But it’s Lewis who steals the film with a lively, campy performance that is delicious to watch. She’s so pretentious and over the top that when she gets her inevitable comeuppance it makes the moment especially satisfying.
One component missing from the movie that is very much a part of the animated Jem and the Holograms is the presence of rival bands the Misfits and the Stingers. Without spoiling the surprise, stick around for the end credits for an additional scene with a girl band and a juicy celebrity appearance that adds some pop and pizazz to the finale, and will have fans praying for a sequel.
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- Released: 2015
- Rating: PG
- Review: The popular 1980s animated series Jem and the Holograms gets a glossy big-screen makeover in this formulaic but entertaining live-action movie that takes several key liberties with its source material. Fans of the original cartoon may object to some of the… (more)