Written by S. Bowyer

 

Jem and the Holograms

 

     Once upon a time in the 80s, there lived Jem and her popular cartoon. Young girls would spend thousands of dollars on the merchandise. It was the 80s answer to Josie and the Pussy Cats. Over the 65 episodes (3 series), a total of 187 music videos – 151 unique – were published  within the cartoon, and on cassette samplers sold with Jem dolls. Surprisingly, most of the music catalog was never sold on cassette or CD, despite the heavy marketing success it would have been.

 

 

     Jem, known during daylight hours as Jerrica, was the lead singer of the animated band. Her keyboardist and songwriter was her sister, Kimber Benton. Then came Aja Leith, her guitarist, and Shana Elmford her drummer, both girls being foster sisters to Jerrica. The series highlighted the importance of Jem living a double life, very few people knowing the girls were the band, Jem and the Holograms due to their disguises on stage. Synergy is also kept secret. Over the years of the series, the group changes, as well as their circumstances, such as their ongoing battle with rival band, The Misfits.

 

     It was a surprise that the Jem saga was given a reboot in 2015, which gave an overview of the adventures of Jem in the series. The viewer is bought in at the start of their career, where the girls are performing at home for their mother, played by Molly Ringwald, but have yet to hit it big. It was intuitive to alter the band’s journey to match the modern era, Jerrica finding instant fame after Kimber uploads her playing to YouTube. If they had relied on the old style of sending a demo tape and getting instantly famous, I think audiences might have shunned the plot early on.

 

 

     

     From the beginning the movie shows the importance of their mystery and the protection of Synergy. The video uploaded to YouTube is suddenly seen with mystery as nobody can recognise or know who Jem is. It’s when Starlight Enterprises, fronted by Juliette Lewis, who plays a very cagey business woman, shows interest in developing their career and keeping the mystery as a selling point. The girls are given unique looks and upgrades to their style, stage presence and affect, the record label paying thousands to keep them happy. The clothes and fashion the girls are put in are reminiscent of the original Jem cartoons, but created to be of our era.

 

 

 

     The movie has another mystery twist in the discovery of what Synergy is. The robot is found among her father’s posessions, but seemingly unfinished before his death. Jerrica wants to understand what he was made for, and what the clues he left are directing her to. The subplot is well explored and well woven into the circumstances of the other band members and the changes that fame has afforded them. It seems like a success, until the girls start to discover the fine print. Lewis becomes the evil queen of the piece, becoming the instigator of division and distaste. We are also introduced to a sub-plot between the label’s assigned assistant and Jerrica’s best interests. It’s often our weakenesses that are exploited by others, and in this case, it’s the mystery surrounding Jem that becomes the focal point of deception.

    

 

     Fortunately, music chosen for the film was also kept modern. Songs including Youngblood have a current style without delving too far into the 80s. One song was also produced with Hillary Duff, bringing in many audiences to the music that might have otherwise overlooked it. The tracks are likeable and unpretentious.



 

     The creators of the Jem product lines were also looking at re-releasing past merchandise, however issues with rights blocked this choice. That said, stores such as Amazon are selling Jem books, music singles, cosmetics, Jem hot pink hair colourant, posters, iPhone cases, clothing, and temporary tattoos. Dolls can be found, but range from $300-$800, looking to be from either collections from the 80s, or exclusive 2013/2014 ComicCon editions.

     Unfortunately, the movie was removed from cinemas after two weeks, after it did not reach its $2 million goal of opening weeks. While some might think this warranted, I believe the movie was not given enough of a chance. While it appears too bubblegum pop at first, the movie would not let down audiences who enjoy the genre of new bands hits big who also enjoy intriguing sub-plots and quality music. None of the film appeared as useless or easy to ignore. The storyline does appear a little cliché at first, however, develops with sub-plots to create a more unique adventure.

     The Synergy sub-plot really pushed the boundaries of what technology means to us, and how it can commemorate those who are important to us. While the effects weren’t overly amazing, the storyline was delivered well, as long as your remind yourself that Synergy was built years ago and is a robot with talents beyond his humble time of birth. These days, he’d be easily outnumbered by your Internet refrigerator!

     After the film credits appears to be a teaser of a band to rival or replace Jem at the top. Could this be The Misfits? We aren’t given much detail, but it makes the viewer wonder if another film is on the cards, or if this was just a reference to a plot within the cartoon that the writers didn’t have time to include due to the new sub-plots that were created for the film. Time will tell.

     Jem and the Holograms(2015) can be seen on many online streaming sites, or purchased on DVD. The original cartoons can also be found at some DVD stores.

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