Jem and the Holograms Parent Review
If you can ignore all of the party anthems and “me” songs sound like every other pop single today, you may be able to focus on the redeeming messages of family and teamwork.
Do you remember the Jem and the Holograms cartoon that ran on TV between 1985 and 1988? If so, you are likely too old to be impressed by this live-action reimagining of the young rock star. However, you just might have a daughter who’s the perfect age to be part of this movie’s target audience!
The screenplay updates this 30-year-old series by placing the characters in the middle of the social media revolution. While closet songwriter Jerrica Benton (Aubrey Peeples) is too shy to promote her talent, her sister Kimber (Stefanie Scott) has no such inhibitions. Hoping to be an Internet star, Kimber constantly has her video camera turned on, and is forever trying to form a band featuring her sibling and their two foster sisters, Shana and Aja (Aurora Perrineau and Hayley Kiyoko). Despite the desperate money issues faced by their caregiver Aunt Bailey (Molly Ringwald), the foursome seems to have no shortage of pricy cell phones and computers, nor more pressing obligations than playing around with them.
So one night when she thinks everyone is asleep, Jerrica borrows Kimber’s camera, pulls out a guitar, and records herself singing a sorrowful, self-authored ballad about loneliness. Embarrassed to show her real self, she paints her face, dons a blonde wig and calls herself “Jem”. Unfortunately, it is hard to keep a secret in such a small house, and everyone overhears her soulful solo. As soon as Kimber gets a chance, she uploads the video – which, of course, goes viral literally over night.
The next day, major media outlets are commenting about the mysterious Jem, and just as quickly Erica Raymond (Juliette Lewis), owner of the large record label Starlight Music, announces she is interested in signing the unknown singer. Initially, Jerrica is uncomfortable with the attention she is attracting. Yet when Aunt Bailey simultaneously faces the treat of eviction, the 18-year-old decides to seize the opportunity to secure a better financial future for their family.
The rest of the plot plods predictably as we watch the rising starlet and her back-up band face the challenges of relocating to a mansion in Los Angeles, the monotony of makeovers, the tediousness of trying on brand name fashions and enduring a grueling rehearsal schedule. All this “story development” is given less screen time than a scene where the bikini-wearing girls take a pool break. Along the way the quartette also meets their handsome handler Rio (Ryan Guzman), performs in front of screaming crowds, quarrels over a contentious contract and goes through an emotional meltdown. And it all happens in less than thirty days!
The only way this “star-is-born” script departs from the expected is with the introduction of a high tech gadget named Synergy. Although a device by that name was included in the original animation, it filled a very different function. The little robot creature shown here is the unfinished invention of Jerrica’s late father (Barnaby Carpenter). It suddenly comes to life with flashing lasers and maps for a scavenger hunt that seem intended to guide the adolescent along the path to adulthood.
Perhaps viewers within the intended demographic will buy into this dream of instant fame and the mantra of being true to one’s self. Their accompanying parents though, might find themselves asking some obvious questions, like how likely is it for a young artist to achieve lasting success? If Jem’s music is supposed to inspire each listener to embrace his or her own identity, why are so many of her fans dressed up just like her? Why are there no consequences for the depicted illegal activities (trespassing, breaking and entering, stealing vehicles and pocket money)? And what kind of a father forgets he has two daughters and lavishes all his attention on just the older one?
However, if you can overlook such details, plus the way all of the party anthems and “me” songs sound like so many other pop singles on today’s music charts, then you may be able to focus on some of the redeeming messages. Family bonds, teamwork and forgiveness are strong contenders here. Then you’ll be left with only two things to worry about: whether or not this film will produce a sequel (a mid-credits scene launches the next chapter) and if those outrageous 80’s fashions might also make a comeback.Directed by Jon M. Chu. Starring Aubrey Peeples, Ryan Guzman, Juliette Lewis, Molly Ringwald, Stefanie Scott. Running time: 118 minutes. Theatrical release October 23, 2015. Updated May 12, 2016
Get details on profanity, sex and violence in Jem and the Holograms here.
Jem and the Holograms Parents Guide
How does this movie treat the idea of identity? What reasons does it give for the growing trend of sharing personal information on the Internet? How can a person manipulate the facts or create a different persona using media? What does Erica encourage the girls to do when they have a chance to reinvent themselves? How does having a second personality affect some of the characters?
What technique did Aunt Bailey use to stop the girls from fighting? How did this approach also encourage the girls to develop a talent? How do you handle these things at your house?
Jerrica describes herself as a “small town wannabe that writes songs to sing in her shower.” How might this statement describe the hidden dreams of most ordinary people? How does this movie’s script play upon the universal desire each individual has to be special?
More About The Movie: This movie is based on the 1980’s cartoon series, Jem and the Holograms.