Jem and the Holograms Review

So I watched Jem and the Holograms…

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I have vague recollections of watching the animated series this movie is based on as a kid. Nothing concrete, just flashes really; but I do remember enjoying the series so when I heard a live-action movie was coming out I was eager to see it. Unfortunately, it never made it to my part of the world and I actually forgot about it entirely. The only reason I ended up seeing it was because I was going through a list of 2015 movies to catch up on movies I’d missed and thought it might be worth a download. It wasn’t quite…

Okay, basic plot: Jerrica Benton (Aubrey Peeples) is a teenage songwriter who lives with her three sisters and aunt. When Jerrica finds out the house they live in is about to be repossessed, she writes a song to vent her emotions and records herself under the alter ego Jem. Her sister, Kimber (Stefanie Scott) posts the video to YouTube where it goes viral. The entire internet becomes obsessed with discovering who Jem is and several record studios – most notably Starlight Music – are anxious to sign her. Realising that this could potentially save her childhood home, Jerrica along with her sisters – Kimber, Aja (Hayley Kiyoko) and Shana (Aurora Perrineau) – travel to Los Angeles to begin their musical careers. Under the guidance of the cruel CEO of Starlight, Erika Raymond (Juliette Lewis), the girls become an instant hit; but they soon learn that fame isn’t everything it’s cracked up to be.

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Whenever I review a movie I always try to judge it against what it was trying to be. I think this works well because it makes my review process very subjective (which it ought to be) and evens the playing field. Therefore, silly, fun films can be rated as well as more serious, “Oscar” films. It’s all about staying true to your identity and providing entertainment along the way. This film only manages to do one of those things. Jem and the Holograms is an entertaining movie at times but it lacks a true sense of identity and this really hurts the film. First and foremost, this film should have been a Disney Channel Original Movie. It has no business being a feature film, at least not in its current format. I did some reading up on the original animated TV series and – as you’d expect – the premise is fairly out there and more than a little bit ridiculous. This film tries to fight against the ridiculousness of its original premise and bring the story into the real world but it doesn’t fully commit to this.

The reason why I think this movie should have been a straight-to-TV release is because it reminds me of a similar movie called Lemonade Mouth. Both films feature bands who achieve success and, actually, both films feature actress, Hayley Kiyoko – she actually even portrays similar characters in both. The beauty of TV movies is that they don’t have to be as concrete and well put-together. There are sins such as plot holes, conveniences and inconsistencies that are more easily forgiven and less noticeable in TV films. If this film had been on the Disney Channel, it could have earned itself a 7 or even an 8 out of 10 in my book; but it being a feature film opens it up to a world of scrutiny and criticism that it isn’t prepared for. It’s sad because this isn’t a horrible movie; it’s just placed in a league where it can’t possibly hope to compete.

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I wish this film had stayed true to the elements that were present in the original. The elements are still present but this movie dampens them in an attempt to make them more realistic. It feels like it’s scared of putting itself out there and taking the risk of being a bit looney. It plays it far too safe and blunts the points that gave the story edge. This leads to a movie lacking consistent style and harmony. There’s also no real struggle in this movie due to its overwhelming amount of conveniences. Jem’s video goes online and it’s an instant hit. Jem has a fight with someone and it’s resolved in the very next scene. There are no lasting consequences or a real sense of tension. You never worry that our hero can fail because everything is handed to her on a silver platter. The amount of conveniences in this movie also leads to a ton of plot holes. There are too many times when you wonder why or how people are doing things. This film never quite decides what it wants to tell you and – more often than not – feels purposeless.

The acting in this movie is fine. Just fine. The cast do alright but, once again, it would have been better if it was a TV film. The one actor who I didn’t think did a good enough job was Juliette Lewis as Erika Raymond. She just isn’t villainous or a dominant enough character. For some reason every time she tried to be a badass I kept thinking, Jennifer Lopez would have done such a better job. I don’t know why I thought of Lopez, it just seemed like a role perfect for her.

Overall, Jem and the Holograms is a movie that’s conflicted. It never makes a final decision on whether to abandon its cartoon lunacy or embrace real-world sensibility. The musical performances are fun but not much else is worth mentioning. I don’t recommend seeing it 3/10

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