Saturday, July 23, 2016

Jem and the Holograms

Based on the Hasbro Animated Series created by Christy Marx, Jem and the Holograms is the story of a young teenage girl who sings a song on YouTube wearing a wig where she, her sister, and their two adoptive singers become pop stars while trying to solve some mystery relating to a robot called Synergy. Directed by Jon M. Chu and screenplay by Ryan Landels, the film is a story of stardom and how they get discovered in the world of the Internet and social media as it is really about a modern world gone horribly wrong. Starring Aubrey Peebles, Aurora Perrineau, Stefanie Scott, Hayley Kiyoko, Ryan Guzman, Molly Ringwald, and Juliette Lewis. Jem and the Holograms is a blasphemous and atrocious film from Jon M. Chu.

Lamenting over her aunt’s financial troubles and overcomes her shyness to sing by wearing a wig and sing a song to a webcam where it would uploaded on YouTube. A young girl becomes a star as she’s joined by her sister and their two adoptive sisters to become a pop band, become big, break-up, the girl goes solo against her will, deal with evils of the music industry, falls for the boss’ son, gets back together, and go a scavenger hunt to find missing pieces for a robot called Synergy who is carrying a mysterious message. That is pretty much the film in a nutshell as it is told in a blandly reflective narrative by its protagonist Jerrica “Jem” Benton (Aubrey Peebles) who would tell her story through a webcam. Ryan Landels’ script doesn’t just feature a narrative that is so predictable but also doesn’t do anything new to the rags-to-riches scenario nor does it create characters that are engaging or interesting. With Jerrica being the only one with some development, it is handled poorly as she mopes and then gets happy, mopes, gets happy, mopes, gets happy, and etc.

Jon M. Chu’s direction isn’t just stylistically bad but it really doesn’t know what kind of film it wants to be. It wants to be a rags-to-riches film about stardom but it also wants to be a scavenger hunt film and it wants to be a heist movie as well as all kinds of shit. What happens is that Chu never really finds a balance nor does he really try to create something that is genre-bending as it becomes nonsensical. Shot largely in Los Angeles with some of it set in Southern California, many of the compositions either look or feel like a music video or never really do anything to tell the story. Adding to the nonsensical tone of the film is the barrage of YouTube clips that would appear very often in the film as if it plays to the idea that if Jem could be a star, so can the average moron. It’s really an ad for YouTube while the usage of Google Earth and other social media devices make the film feel distracting where it plays into this overly-consumerist world of social media as if it’s the idea to succeed.

It’s not just that the usage of these devices make the film so jarring to watch but it’s also in the YouTube videos as they’re presented in very poor quality. The musical performances presented in the film doesn’t just look and feel like a music video but its attempt to be authentic only makes it more embarrassing as the music isn’t any good. Even the message of what the film wants to be feels very tacked on as if it will make anyone create some form of bullshit and be rich of it which is false. Another aspect of the film that is really an insult to fans of the show who posted videos for their love of the cartoon show is having them express their devotion to the Jem character in the film as it is just a major slap in the fucking face to those fans and the cartoon itself showing how obscene this film is. Overall, Chu creates a film that isn’t just idiotic but it’s really a film that explores the false notion of stardom and in the disguised of an ad for YouTube and other social media devices.

Cinematographer Alice Brooks does some very awful work with the film‘s photography as it‘s overly-stylized with its polished look along with the usage of hand-held phone cameras and low-quality SVHS video footage as it‘s just shit. Editors Jillian Twigger Moul and Michael Trent do horrible work with the editing as it‘s got a lot of fast-cuts, lots of montages, and doesn‘t try to slow things down. Production designer Kevin Bird, with set decorator Lori Mazeur and art director Jennifer Moller, does a bad job with the look of the sets as it‘s just looks expensive or use places to create something authentic which is the opposite. Costume designer Soyon An creates some shitty clothing that looks like bad 80s costumes with awful wigs and all sorts of ugly shit.

Visual effects supervisor James David Hattin does some idiotic work with the visual effects in the way some of the holograms that Synergy produces looks and feels cheesy as well as the big reveal which is just ugh…. Sound editor Kunal Rajan does a bad job as if the sound is meant to be something big such as a performance where the power goes off yet people can still hear Jem sing which is one of those unprofessional moments for a sound editor. The film’s music by Nathan Lanier is just a low-key score of electronics with bits of bad jazz that is just unmemorable yet it is the work of music supervisor Olivia Zaro that really shows why this film is an abomination as a lot of the music Jem and the Holograms sing are just bad pop music that sounds like everything else as it’s not authentic at all.

The casting by Terri Taylor is horrific where it has some talented people given nothing to do but look stupid as well as use some very unnecessary cameos from Alicia Keys, Jimmy Fallon, Chris Pratt, and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson sing the praises of Jem while the cameo appearances of the show’s creator Christy Marx as a journalist, Jem’s original singing voice as Britta Phillips as a stage manager, and Jem’s original cartoon voice in Samantha Newmark as a hairstylist are just there for no reason. In the role of the Misfits who appear in the mid-credits sequence, Ke$ha, Hana Mae Lee, Katie Findlay, and Eiza Gonzalez are there as it should’ve been the highlight but being relegated in the mid-credits after the film is just an insult. The small roles of Nathan Moore as the bodyguard Zipper, Isabella Rice as the young Jerrica, and Barnaby Carpenter as Jerrica and Kimber’s father are just there for no real fucking reason with Carpenter being the one to give out a lame message that the film doesn’t represent at all.

Molly Ringwald is pretty wasted in the role of Aunt Bailey as a woman struggling with her finances to save her house as she tries to be a source of wisdom for Jem and the girls where she isn’t given anything substantial to do. Juliette Lewis as Erica Raymond is a performance that tries to be a strong antagonist but is never given any real depth as she’s just a bad villain. Ryan Guzman is bland as Erica’s son Rio as the guy who is there to watch the girls and become Jerrica’s boyfriend. Hayley Kiyoko and Aurora Perrineau are dull in their respective roles as Aja and Shana where they’re the adopted sisters of Jerrica and Kimber as they’re just there to look cool and bitch about everything while Stefanie Scott as Jerrica’s younger sister is just this overly-excited and Internet-obsessed sister who is bad to watch. Finally, there’s Aubrey Peebles as Jerrica “Jem” Benton as this shy girl who becomes a star and deals with all of its trapping as she is someone that is never given any depth where the performance is just horrible to watch.

Jem and the Holograms is a horrific film from Jon M. Chu. Not only is it a bad and bland film that exploits many of the awful aspects of modern pop music as well as the world of social media at its worst. It’s a film that is essentially a veiled ad for social media outlets including YouTube, Twitter, and Google Earth. A lot of it that goes overboard while it insults fans of the cartoon series as well as the source material where it takes itself way too seriously. In the end, Jem and the Holograms is just a fucking horrible film from Jon M. Chu that is just a fucking insult to Christy Marx and the cartoon series that she created.

© thevoid99 2016


Eric F said...

I didn't see the movie because it got such awful reviews when it came out that they almost immediately pulled it out of theaters out of embarrassment.

I thought about giving it a chance until I found out about the awful con the director pulled off. Apparently, at the end of the film, there are a bunch of clips from people who claim to love the film. But in reality, the producers wanted fans of the original Jem to submit audition videos for a chance to appear in the film by telling what they loved about the original cartoon. The director then took their videos and edited them into making it look like they were talking about his film. What a scumbag!!

thevoid99 said...

Oh, that was an insult to those fans and to Christy Marx. What Jon M. Chu, the producers, and editors did was make those fans feel like they're singing the praises of the Jem character instead of the cartoon as there's a clip of someone singing the praises of Jem while the cartoon is playing on the background of his TV. It is beyond insulting. I saw this late one night because I couldn't sleep and wow, it was awful but hearing what they did with the clips of those people was just downright offensive. I would've sued Universal for doing that and all of those remarks that Jon M. Chu got for the film, he deserved them. He's a piece of shit.

Dell said...

Wow, surprised you did this to yourself. I keep telling myself I won't, but I also keep hearing how bad it is. That means morbid curiosity will eventually get the better of me and find myself clicking play on it. I'm holding off as long as I can. Wish me luck.

thevoid99 said...

@Wendell-Well, when you go through spells of insomnia like I do and have a sick curiosity over how bad this film is. You do things like and wow.... I wasn't intending to write a review on this but because it was looming in my head and I was filled with a lot of anger that I had to let it out. I knew I had to call the film out on its bullshit and more. If you know anyone that is a fan of the cartoon, believe me. They will nuclear on this fucking film.

Brittani Burnham said...

I'm surprised you watched this! I saw a few minutes of it on HBO recently and I know I'm not missing anything. It is quite spectacular how this film managed to flop with both its target audiences - fans of the original series (which it appears they've butchered) and tween girls (who are probably wtf'ing over whatever synergy is supposed to be in that film)

thevoid99 said...

@Brittani-This is what happens when you're dealing with insomnia and wondering what is on, other than porn, and you have some sick curiosity into wondering how bad this is. It didn't leave my mind for days and goddamn, it is incredibly obscene. I think one of the reasons it did flop was that it tried to target that tween demographic but that audience has no clue on what the cartoon was so it was obvious that it flopped. Plus, the audience that grew up with the cartoon were pretty much offended by its trailer and stayed away from the film for the right reasons. I would put this as one of the worst films ever made and I hope there's a special place in hell for Jon M. Chu.

keith71_98 said...

You are a brave soul. I commend your willingness. This think looked absolutely horrible (as it sounds like it was).

thevoid99 said...

@keith71_98-One of the things one must do as a film buff when it comes to bad movies is to take one for the team. Out of curiosity and my recent lapses of insomnia, you end up doing this like this like watch bad movies. I'm glad the film is a flop and is considered more than just a fiasco. It is just truly one of the worst things ever created.

Unknown said...

Loved this review. Thanks for taking one for the team as I have ZERO desire to see it and even moreso after reading your review. What a waste of time for all involved on this movie. Thankfully it has been rightfully relegated to obscurity where it belongs.

thevoid99 said...

@J.D. Lafrance-I can understand why a casual audience wouldn't want to see it as it is quite dumb yet it's the fans of the cartoons that will be offended in the worst way in seeing this and probably want to find Jon M. Chu and tear him to pieces.