#REVIEW: “JEM & THE HOLOGRAMS”
It was impossible to ignore some of the harsh criticism that Jon Chu‘s Jem & The Holograms received when footage first surfaced. There even was a hashtag expressing dissatisfaction how it is so little like the iconic 80s animated series on which it is based. #JemandtheHologramsFail, they called it.
The much-talked-about Film Adaptation admittedly isn’t great. Despite its best attempts not-so-subtlely to pay homage to the series it is based upon – literally characters recite lines from its original theme song – and being loaded with amusing celebrity cameos, this Film has far too much to overcome.
Jem & The Holograms is a contemporary rags-to-riches story of a girl named Jerrica (Aubrey Peeples) whose rise to fame along with her bandmate sisters, must come at the sake of anonymity and mystery when she is discovered online by a bigshot label head, Erica (Juliette Lewis). Along the way, she stumbles upon a robot-like creation named S1.N.E.R.G.Y, which her late father had left behind for her and it is her mission to uncover something important he meant to tell her. As Erica demands to pull Jerrica (or her alter-ego Jem) from her sisters, we find this young woman struggling to carve her own identity as fame pulls her further away from herself than she intended.
Inasmuch as we appreciate Chu’s vision to modernize and translate something so dearly adored by 80s kids to a new generation, much of that glamour and fantasy which drew fans originally to the series is almost wiped entirely. We get it – the budget restrictions of $5 million and the paralyzing risk of not having a young audience to cater to – but truly Jem & The Holograms as a Movie is one of those ‘go big or go home’ endeavours. The brand is aware fully aware of its influence on some of today’s Pop icons like Katy Perry, Lady Gaga and Ke$ha even who has a cameo, but ultimately it lacks the cool campiness its predecessor was all about.
In fact literally after the credits roll, the Film somewhat is redeemed as we are introduced finally to opponents The Misfits, but it is too little too late and admittedly this truly is the Film that fans wanted to see. Instead, the story is relegated to a focus on Jem‘s record label feud and an intended high-stakes identity struggle, which never quite feels dangerous enough.
What is wonderful about Jem & The Holograms however, is the breakthrough performance by its star Aubrey Peeples who not only is musically-gifted, but a captivating presence with commendable acting chops. We hope she escapes this introduction to the big screen unscathed because really she is great. Juliette Lewis fully is aware of the Film she is starring in and is fantastic as the controlling Erica, completely over-the-top, which is the true essence of Jem & The Holograms.
We’ll won’t nitpick too much that the sound of the catchy-pop soundtrack completely doesn’t jive with the element of Glam-Rock we see repeatedly, or that the instrumentation doesn’t fit what we hear either. We will state however that the repeated attempts to connect with fans of the Social Media age including jarring YouTube-type clips of budding musicians drumming and mock-Instagram clips, do little to assist the Film’s pacing and if anything become a distraction.
We wanted to have more fun than we did, but perhaps there is a way Jem & The Holograms might connect to a new audience. Just don’t tell them about the amazing animated series than began it all…
Universal Pictures Canada release JEM & THE HOLOGRAMS on Friday, October 23, 2015.