DIR: Jon M.Chu • WRI: Ryan Landels • PRO: Jason Blum, Scooter Braun, Jon M. Chu, Stephen Davis, Brian Goldner, Bennett Schneir • DOP: Alice Brooks • ED: Michael Trent, Jillian Twigger Moul • DES: Kevin Bird • MUS: Nathan Lanier • CAST: Aubrey Peeples, Stefanie Scott, Aurora Perrineau, Hayley Kiyoko, Molly Ringwald, Juliette Lewis
So it turns out that making a movie based on a cartoon show from ’80s that was created solely to sell toys to children results in stinking pile of utter rubbish. Who knew? But enough about the Transformers franchise, Jem and the Holograms is a film that deserves no one’s time and/or attention. In fact, why it’s getting an Irish release at all is a bit of a mystery. It was released in the States in October of last year only to get pulled from theatre within just two weeks due to poor box-office performance. In the immortal words of Cinema Blend’s Dirk Libbey: ‘They could have hidden Jimmy Hoffa’s body at a showing and nobody would ever find it.’ And no wonder. The film is a completely misguided attempt by Universal to exploit a pre-existing fanbase by revamping a popular property for a contemporary audience- and, boy, is the film ever ‘contemporary’. Crammed packed with social media references that are bound to be obsolete within eighteen months’ time, it overall feels like a cheap attempt to appeal to teenagers’ lowest common denominator. Hey, youths, you guys like Twitter and Vine, right? Right?! Social media is so rad, whooo!
What both the studio and director Jon M. Chu evidently failed to release is that the charm of the original series lay in its distinct (for lack of a better term) ‘eighty-ish-ness’. Had Chu just decided to embrace the inherent silliness of the cartoon for its translation onto the silver screen, then perhaps this would have been a different type of review.
The story follows Jerrica (ugh) Benton, played by Aubrey Peeples, who is taken in by her aunt Bailey (Ringwald) after the death of her father, along with her younger sister Kimber (Scott) and two foster sisters Aja (Kiyoko) and Shana (Perrineau). With the family facing eviction from their home, Jerrica turns to music to express her emotions. After catching her sister mid-performance, Kimber decides to upload the video of her singing to YouTube under the moniker of ‘Jem’ where it quickly gains traction with viewers. This leads to Jem attracting the attention of pushy music exec and owner of Starlight Records, Erica Raymond (Lewis), who catapults Jerrica into a life of fame and glamour she’s not sure she even wanted in the first place.
Also there’s a subplot with a robot. Yeah.
As ridiculous as the plot is, the film could have made for a potentially enjoyable watch if it did not at sudden, random moments try to introduce a more serious tone that ultimately ends up feeling insincere at best and laughable at worst. One of the more insulting aspects of the film is that it doesn’t trust its audience enough to dig out its oh-so-subtle message on their own. The film literally opens with the protagonist telling the audience the moral of the story. I’m so glad that I saw this film because now I know that family is good and big corporations are bad and that it’s important to be myself. Thanks Mr Chu! Thinking gives you wrinkles, after all.
Overall Jem and the Holograms is a confused mess that will leave previous fans of the show isolated by its insistence on being ‘hip’ and ‘with it’, while newer audiences are unlikely to appreciate its premise in a post-Hannah Montana world. Thankfully, if its failure across the pond is any indication, the film will soon fade into obscurity where it belongs.
PG (See IFCO for details)
Jem and the Holograms is released 12th February 2016