Jem and the Holograms Review
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In the ‘80s, girls couldn’t get enough of Jem and the Holograms. They watched the cartoon series after school and collected the wild-haired dolls. Now, three decades after the show’s debut, director Jon M. Chu introduces a new generation to the undercover rock star in his live-action Jem and the Holograms movie.

Jem and the Holograms follows as small-town girl Jerrica Benton (Aubrey Peeples) is transformed into the mysterious pop sensation known as Jem. Afraid to put her talents as a singer and songwriter on display for the world, she hides behind makeup, a pink wig, and a secret identity to record a video of a new song. When her younger sister, Kimber (Stefanie Scott), posts the video online, Jem becomes an overnight sensation. And as she and her sisters navigate the cutthroat music world in LA, Jem ends up on a quest to uncover a mystery left behind by her late father.

This live-action adaptation tries its best to appease grownup fans by staying faithful to the original series while updating the story with a social media twist. In a society that’s obsessed with tweets, status updates, and viral videos, it’s no surprise that a shy musician like Jerrica would hide her true identity—or that the Internet would be responsible for her instant rise to fame. But the film tries a little too hard to be Internet savvy, overusing gimmicks and sprinkling the action with videos from amateur musicians.

The story, meanwhile, is a mess, with plot points that make little or no sense. It has plenty of emotional ups and downs, but the characters’ reactions generally feel overdramatic and unreasonable. It starts out as relatively fluffy pre-teen entertainment—complete with catchy tunes, fashion montages, mystery, and even a little bit of romance. But it eventually turns dark and moody—even bringing young members of the audience to tears. And it leaves viewers with the perplexing suggestion that a rock star who chooses to hide behind wild makeup, a pink wig, and a stage name should somehow inspire young people around the world to stand up and be proud of themselves and their identity.

It has its entertaining moments—its flashy music videos and amusing celebrity cameos—but it’s not nearly as outrageous as the cartoon always claimed.

Jem and the Holograms is a nostalgic film, but it’s not a good film. It’s harmless entertainment for young girls—and a blast for the past for older ones—but you’re probably better off saving your money and watching old episodes of the cartoon online instead.

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