Jem is probably a great movie if the viewer is seven years old. Ardent fans of the 1980s Jem cartoon and any of the subsequent comic book adaptations will find it lackluster in every way. Jerrica Benton is reduced from an independent and incredibly successful business woman who moonlights as a musical superstar and full-time philanthropist to a teenaged girl with stage fright (played by Aubrey Peeples, who isn’t a terrible casting choice), whose sisters make her famous on YouTube.
There is very little drama throughout Jem until Jerrica learns that her aunt (Molly Ringwald), is about to lose their family home if she doesn’t fulfill a solo contract, forsake her sisters and become the most famous person in the world - which, by the way, she does in less than five minutes. Less than two scenes later Jerrica’s sisters (Stefanie Scott, Haykey Kiyoko and Aurora Perrineau who aren’t terrible either, but have almost nothing to do), are back on her side and ready to take down Erica Raymond (Juliette Lewis playing a gender-bent version of the television villain Eric Raymond). Overall, the plot rings as specious and not even the slightest bit plausible with performances that are good enough, but not strong enough to actually resonate during the more emotional beats.
The writers play a lot of lip service to the original Jem by naming dropping things like Synergy and Starlight Entertainment, but they are rendered so utterly separate from their original incarnations that they are completely unrecognizable and do nothing save convolute the plot further by introducing a scavenger hunt across Los Angeles in order to justify to the audience (and, presumably, the character), what a Mary Sue Jerrica really is.
The biggest problem with the Jem movie is that it has utterly abandoned everything that made its animated predecessor great. They have stripped away the remarkable talent, savvy business sense and affinity for charity work that defined so much of Jerrica Benton in order to make her a weepy pop star who is near impossible to empathize with.
The final downfall of Jem is the casting of Ryan Guzman as Rio. Aubrey Peeples’ teenaged Jerrica (who looks about 15 throughout the movie), falls head-over-heels in love with the adult Rio (who looks about 35 throughout the movie), despite the fact that the actors have zero chemistry in the many scenes they are. By the time they make out for the last thirty or so seconds of the movie the sexual assault alarms are ringing in the viewers’ heads. It is creepy beyond measure, completely unwarranted and is only helping to cement the idea to young women and an incredible age gap is acceptable between themselves and the men in positions of power over them as long as they own a record company that will keep the family band together.
Throw in the rampant product placement (it’s obvious that Google Earth funded the entire picture), the auto-tuned songs and the sudden unearned plot developments and there is nothing present in the Jem movie for a thoughtful adult audience that may have enjoyed the original source material and very little to present to a younger audience as a guideline to overcoming their own insecurities.
Will you go see Jem & The Holograms this weekend? Let us know what you thought!