Digging this review of Jem and the Holograms

  • Young people, right? They like young-people shit, like YouTube videos, Instagram selfies and crazy hair. If you hate young people but want to pander to them for some reason—like, if you have loathsome, foul-smelling stepchildren—you can always take them to see Jem and the Holograms.


    This movie is a travesty of the girl-singer genre—and I say that as someone who watched Mariah Carey’s Glitter from beginning to end.


    But the movie does include a version of Synergy (or 51n3rgy, I guess), the super-computer that advises Jem and provides cool holographic disguises in the original cartoon. Except that in this verison, Synergy is a shitty robot that Jem’s father built, which looks a bit like Echo from Earth to Echo crossed with Wall-E. There’s a running subplot where Jem and the Holograms have to hunt down the missing pieces of the robot, which Jem’s dead father left hidden in various places in L.A. as a kind of sadistic scavenger hunt.

    Basically, Synergy in this film is another piece of consumer electronics, feeding into the film’s general obsession with “the kids and their ipoops.”


    The YouTube videos inserted into Jem take two forms. There are videos that Chu solicited from fans of the 1980s cartoon, talking randomly about how much they love Jem and the Holograms, and those are dropped in here and there, whenever Chu feels the need to try and convince us that we should care about these lifeless characters.

    More fascinatingly, though, whenever the movie reaches one of its rare moments of drama and conflict, suddenly a YouTube video of people randomly having a drum-circle or beatboxing or breakdancing gets intercut with the action. And the soundtrack of that video becomes the soundtrack of the scene—so it’s like when Jem gets (feebly) angry or assertive, the beatboxers or drummers are expressing Jem’s emotion. Or maybe Jem is powered by the collective emotion of all the people posting amateur videos on the Internet. It’s hard to say which.

    In either case, this movie outsources its biggest moments of narrative intensity to random YouTube vids, which is a filmic choice so incomprehensible, I’m tempted to intrepret it as some kind of grand statement of Dada anti-meaning. Like, there’s no functional difference between this studio-produced Hollywood movie and some incredibly rough, totally uneventful YouTube videos, because both things are just meaningless successions of images. Le Chien Andalou via Pewdiepie.


    As it is, Jem and the Holograms stands as a new low in the long, terrible catalog of movie versions that missed the point of their source material. And it’s sort of fascinating that the Transformers films, for all their innumerable shortcomings, manage to at least contain cars that turn into robots and a few other key elements, while Jem (from the same company, Hasbro) is basically stripped of all its defining characteristics and turned into generic fluff mixed with “relevant” Instagrammery.

  • Roger Ebert (well, his site at least) gave it 3/4. undefined

  • I wager the Chicago Sun-Times reviewer wasn't a fan of the cartoon, is the difference.

  • Perhaps; I don't know much about the cartoon or the movie but the plot sounds trite at best.

  • Well, to start with:

    1. The cartoon has a rival band, The Misfits, that seems to be completely missing from the movie

    2. In the cartoon, Jerrico uses her dad's supercomputer "Synergy" to create holographic disguises for her and her friends to become a pop group (and do stage lighting, etc) so they can use the earnings to save the orphanage they volunteer at, and they kind of get caught up/swept away in the music biz thing instead of specifically trying to become famous. Synergy isn't just a little robot pet or whatever, Synergy is the driver of the plot from the very first episode

    3. A lot of the conflict revolves around Jem and Jerrico being the "same person" (secret identity stuff, like a superhero plot)

    4. The cartoon has actually pretty good original music, and in generally is well-written and well-produced (and even well-animated, by low frame rate 1980s standards)

    "Jem and the Holograms" Theme – 00:43
    — Hub Network

    I watched it a lot too when I was a kid. I'm not sure I'd call myself a "fan", but I definitely recognize what made it unique and good.

    As the reviewer points out, the sitcom Hannah Montana does a better job at being Jem than the movie named "Jem".

  • @rc4 said:

    Roger Ebert (well, his site at least) gave it 3/4. undefined

    Is that three quarters out of five or ten? It sounds a bit generous either way.

  • Ebert (used to) rate on a zero to four scale, I assume the site still uses that.

    His zero star reviews are always pretty entertaining. There's a book of them called "I Hated This Movie" IIRC.

  • @blakeyrat said:

    I watched it a lot too when I was a kid. I'm not sure I'd call myself a "fan", but I definitely recognize what made it unique and good.

    I think it was mostly that it was shown on Sunday mornings when there were no other cartoons on.

  • I give the transgression of not spending enough money on a sexist, racist movie three problematics.

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