As Hollywood continues to dredge the depths of ‘80s and ‘90s pop-culture nostalgia for a hit — any hit — we come to Jem and the Holograms. There are certainly worse movies to come out of 2015 (believe me, there are so many), but few are as needless and unmemorable, and the dull thud it made at the box office is well-earned. The film is loosely based on the ‘80s cartoon of the same name — so loose that its mere existence seems to have upset some longtime fans (I found a YouTube video of two grown adults espousing the reasons they were “outraged” over the trailer, so I can only assume they speak for some people).
I’ve never watched an episode of Jem so I can’t speak comparatively, though what I know of it — a mix of glam rock and cornball sci-fi — wouldn’t make the worst movie imaginable. What has happened is that anything that’s fun about the original Jem is pushed aside for some treatise on social media, oversharing and a bunch of other nonsense, which is, in the end, about mealy-mouthed junk, such as being yourself. So not only is Jem pretty unimaginative, it’s also incredibly cliched and inconsequential.
Instead of the titular heroine going on adventures and leading a life of glamor, we have the tale of some down-on-their-luck teens becoming famous in the age of the Internet. Jerrica (TV actress Aubrey Peeples) is just your everyday teen with three eccentric sisters and a mother (Molly Ringwald) with a failing business who are about to lose their home. But just in time, some bland song Jerrica performs and puts on YouTube inexplicably goes viral and she and her sisters find themselves on the cusp of stardom. Taking on the alter ego of Jem (Jerrica in half-assed Aladdin Sane make-up), our protagonist must venture through the twists and turns of stardom.
Interspersed in the proceedings, we have Jem and her buddies trying to find the pieces of a robot her late father left her. It works about as well as it sounds and does little beside push the running time to around two hours. The film might be watchable if the musical numbers were more than passable or if the songs were the tiniest bit memorable, but damned if I can remember a single note from any of it. If you’re going to base your movie on music, having, you know, good songs is a must. This means that the outcome of Jem is a movie too unmitigatingly bland to capture the imagination of any general moviegoer, while also alienating what fans of the cartoon are out there. What remains is a film without a hook and without an audience. Rated PG for thematic material, including reckless behavior, brief suggestive content and some language.