Jem and the Holograms full movie review - "Jem and the Holograms" isn't the former and is too much of the latter.
Some movies are just dumb. But I don't mean to say that the people making the movie are dumb.
Unfortunately, in spite of the best efforts of many smart, talented and hard-working people, "dumb" is the first word that comes to mind when thinking about a particular movie. Take "Jem and the Holograms" (PG, 1:58) for example. Just look at the title. The lead character is a singer who performs under the nickname that her father gave her? but "Jem" should be spelled with a "G"! And why call the band members "the Holograms" (something that isn't really there) when part of the point of the movie is that Jem's musicians are an indispensable part of the act? Now, before someone says that I don't know what I'm talking about, yes, I am aware that this movie is a live action version of a popular mid-late 1980s animated TV series of the same name (and the same spelling), but that doesn't mean that the adaptation (or the original) doesn't contain some dumb ideas. The TV series was only created to help sell toys! That may be good business, but it's kind of a dumb reason for people to start watching a new show, which basically amounts to a half-hour toy commercial. Still, having said all that (and with more "dumb" complaints to come), I admit that "dumb" is rarely an all-or-nothing proposition and even "dumb" movies can be mildly entertaining.
Jem, whose real name is Jerrica Benton (Aubrey Peeples), is a teen who lives with her younger sister, Kimber (Stefanie Scott) and their aunt Bailey (Molly Ringwald), who took the girls in after their father died. Also in the house are Bailey's two previously adopted daughters, Aja (Hayley Kiyoko) and Shana (Aurora Perrineau). The four teenage girls live as sisters and are all into music and fashion. Jerrica and Kimber write songs and all four girls play instruments. They also all comment on each other's clothing and hairstyle choices, sometimes even doing the "favor" of making changes in each other's styles.
One day when the girls all decide to entertain themselves by putting on fun make-up, wigs and clothes to make a "music video", the chronically private Jerrica is inspired to record one of her songs on video and in costume as "Jem". Kimber, who is the opposite of Jerrica and lives her entire life online, gets a hold of Jerrica's video clip and posts it on YouTube. "Jem" becomes, quite literally, an overnight sensation. The video goes viral and everyone is asking "Who is Jem?" One of those asking is Starlight Music CEO Erica Raymond (Juliette Lewis) who finds Jerrica and offers her money to perform three shows in L.A. Jerrica agrees ? on one firmly-held condition ? that her sisters come with her as her band.
Erica (the female version of television Jem's nemesis, Eric) isn't the magnanimous God-send she appears to be. Erica's the kind of person who casually insults people when she talks, insists on having her way, and isn't above manipulating people to get it. Even after meeting Erica, Aunt Bailey lets the four teenage girls go back with Erica to L.A. (pretty dumb, if you ask me) without any more supervision than Erica, her driver, Zipper (Nathan Moore), and Erica's son and employee, Rio Pacheco (Ryan Guzman). Erica has the girls stay in the "Rock Star Suite" in Starlight Mansion. Rio is right down the hall, but that still doesn't stop these very independent girls from getting into some serious mischief.
"That's when things start to get weird," says Jerrica's narration, referring to their first night in Starlight Mansion. (Taking out the word "weird" and substituting "dumb" and/or "dumber" would be more accurate.) A small robot which Jerrica and Kimber's dad invented (but could never get to work) and which Jerrica holds onto for inspiration, suddenly starts beeping and flashing. The robot, 51n3rg.y (pronounced "synergy"), leads the girls ? and the audience ? into a subplot which has Jerrica searching for clues to something that her father left for her to find when she became old enough to do so.
Back to the main story. The girls perform in L.A. and they're a hit, even though Jem ends up looking like Katy Perry, Lady Gaga and Sia somehow joined their DNA, had a child and worked together on her look. Jerrica's conflicted about the artifice of her on-stage persona, but at least she's happy thinking that she's going to make enough money to help Aunt Bailey out of some financial trouble, and then the other shoe drops. Erica kicks her manipulations into overdrive, reveals her true intentions and forces Jerrica into a very difficult choice that will have long-term implications for all involved (especially if a planned sequel is filmed, as foreshadowed in a mid-credits scene which features Ke$ha as a character from the TV show).
"Jem and the Holograms" has its charms, but it's still basically pretty dumb. Besides my earlier points, there's Jem's super-fast rise to stardom (ridiculously fast - even for the internet age), Erica's ridiculous statement that she can find another "Jem" and no one would notice (even in the internet age), that robot's capabilities and how they come about, and a major conflict's resolution that is sappy and rushed.
On the positive side, Ringwald gives an excellent performance and the band performs some well-written songs that have a good beat. The movie is family-friendly and gives us some good lessons in loyalty, integrity and being yourself, but the film is unlikely to hold much appeal for many people beyond die-hard fans of the original TV show or girls currently between the ages of 6 and 12. Unfortunately, there's only so much dumbness that some decent acting and a few good songs and positive messages can overcome in one film. Heck, maybe you think this review is dumb, but I'm still giving this movie a "C-".