Jem and the Holograms Review



While we here in Britain are scrutinising over the need to bring Dad’s Army to the silver screen, there will be many others pondering quite why the 1980s animated TV series Jem is being rewarded with a big screen endeavour. Though screenwriter Ryan Landels and director Jon M. Chu can be commended for at least modernising the narrative, and attempting to fit this story in to a contemporary landscape – it’s been done so in a horribly contrived, and unbearably saccharine fashion.

Aubrey Peeples plays Jerrica, who lives with her sister Kimber (Stefanie Scott) and cousins Shana (Aurora Perrineau) and Aja (Hayley Kiyoko). Often clowning around and playing music together, when Jerrica’s lone recording of a song she had written is uploaded to YouTube by Kimber, she becomes an overnight sensation. Instantly signed to a record label led by Erica Raymond (Juliette Lewis) – she becomes her alter-ego Jem, and it’s the elusive nature of the pop-star that breeds so much publicity. While enjoying all of the success, Jerrica becomes sidetracked by her dad’s invention; a robot which seems to have messages for the young woman left to her from her father, who died when she was a child.

The film is heavily informed by social media, and as such it almost feels dated before you’ve even left the cinema. It’s so much about being in the moment, and the role of social media in the protagonist’s career, it’s disregarded any hope of being relevant in the future. It’s also horribly mawkish in parts and uncynical way beyond a point of endearment. It’s sickly sweet and a cappella singing is generally awkward at the best of times, and is a current fixture within this production, leading to many occasions where the only thing you can do as an audience member is rest your head in your hands and avoid making eye contact with the screen.

What doesn’t help with our investment, is that we struggle to believe in her overnight success. The video posted online simply doesn’t sell it. Search ‘teenager sings acoustic songs’ in YouTube and you’ll be inundated with an abundance of individuals lending their ’emotional’ vocals to tracks they’ve written, or covered. Her voice and song – while more than accomplished – isn’t special enough to warrant this campaign to reveal her identity and to have her signed up to a prestigious record label. Given the challenge in adhering to her stardom, it would make more sense just to not show the song. Let us imagine it, it’s less of a problem for us to suspend our disbelief and be blissfully unaware, than it is to be overly aware.

The film presents an unrealistic representation of the music industry too, and just life in general. That shouldn’t be a problem as such, the addition of a robot ensures this film is firmly set in a fantasy world, but Chu steeps this tale in realism with the use of social media, and that approach gloriously backfires when it becomes so difficult to believe in. What we can take away from this film, though, is that the susceptible public will latch on to any old thing and convince themselves it will change their lives for the better. At least that part is realistic.