I think we can declare an undisputed champion of failure.
The 2015 Jem and the Holograms movie is the absolute worst adaptation ever made. Yes, perhaps even Halle Berry can breathe a sigh of relief, because as horrendous as Catwoman was, at least it lasted in theaters for more than two weeks. You did not misread that. Universal Pictures’ horrendous attempt to revive the characters immortalized from an animated TV series that could only have come out of the 1980s flopped so badly that they pulled the film from theaters just two weeks after premiering, not even making back half of its minuscule-by-Hollywood-standards $5 million budget and leaving the door wide open for about every single critic out there to make jokes about how “truly, truly outrageous” this debacle really was. It’s a fitting demise for an adaptation that may have gotten more wrong about the source material than, yes, even Pitof’s disastrous take on DC’s most famous cat burglar.
So just in case you don’t know: The original “Jem” was about an orphaned young woman named Jerrica Benton inheriting her father’s music company along with a Star Trek quality computer that she and her friends use to create an all-girl hair band to stop her father’s corrupt business partner Eric Raymond from destroying the company with an evil rock band called the Misfits. And yes, that type of show completely fit in with animated shows in the 1980s.
So what did Universal, writer Ryan Landels and director Jon Chu do to bring Jem and the Holograms for another generation? They regurgitated the plot of the Josie and the Pussycats movie, gender-flipped Raymond (no Caitlyn Jenner jokes, please), removed the Misfits from the equation completely and turned Jerrica Benton into Rebecca Black with only half the talent and charm. At least “Friday” had something redeeming in how spectacularly awful it was. There’s nothing spectacular about the Jem movie, which could be Exhibit A as to why it failed.
Full disclosure: While I admit to having watched the likes of Rainbow Brite as a kid, I didn’t watch Jem, but even I can see why it caught on and subsequently why this movie tanked. It’s bad enough that the movie removed so much of the insanity that made the original fun to the point that Christy Marx could sue for defamation (and whether that’s more the fault of Landels or Chu really doesn’t matter), but it gets worse by rehashing the overused “fame isn’t as great as you think” and “you should never compromise who you are for success” morals that anyone with half a brain knows is outright hypocrisy when coming from Hollywood. Not to mention how it pretty much ridicules social media and YouTube, which really isn’t going to make the Millenials very happy. Old guard or next generation, this movie appeals to no one.
But that’s not to say this film couldn’t have worked had just more effort been put into it. Heck, they didn’t even have to make it a carbon copy of the cartoon. Was there legitimate concern that making it too “retro” would turn off the Millenials the studio felt were needed as a draw? Did they really need to modernize Jem by throwing YouTube into the mix? Okay, that’s fine. There still could have been a way to make it work and still produce something that paid better tribute to the original. Bear with me:
Jerrica inherits ownership in Starlight Records just like in the animated series. But she is either unable to exercise proxy power, or simply put, Raymond and the other execs at Starlight don’t trust her due to her age (or being a girl if you want to go THAT route), so she finds herself powerless to stop Raymond from taking the company n a direction she knows her father wouldn’t want using the Misfits. It could even be that Raymond is planning sabotage to eventually sell Starlight Records to a bigger production conglomerate.
BUT… it turns out that Jerrica (or possibly one of her friends) is very computer savvy. And, by using the Internet and their own home studio programs, they create an alternate identity music group who’s videos become so viral they outdraw the Misfits. An enraged Raymond relents to giving this “Jem” a chance – IF they agree to face off against the Misfits in person. This proves a problem for Jerrica because they can’t pull off the charade without their computer programs at home.
And that’s where Synergy comes in. Jerrica finds out that her father actually developed and left to her a holographic computer that they can use to create the facade of Jem and the Holograms outside the safety of their homes. The earring transmitters, the holographic disguises, using the “Showtime, Synergy” catchphrase the way it was intended – all of it can still be utilized in the same method as with the TV series – just adding in the while social media/online streaming part as a plot device to how someone like Jerrica would fight back in this day and age. Heck, you want to take it further? Have Raymond and the Misfits conspire to sabotage Jem’s concert and ruin their chance to officially joining Starlight – and then they are saved by millions of their fans bankrolling them through Kickstarter!!!
Maybe this wouldn’t have worked either. Maybe something like Jem and the Holograms is just not a franchise that could realistically work in this day and age – just a product of its time that time has passed by. We are talking about a girl-power rock band fighting criminals and a rival band willing to commit major felonies to try and beat them out. That insane concept could fly 30 years ago, but probably not today.
Still, the disappointment will always lie in the fact that this movie, simply put, just didn’t TRY. They could have at least made an effort to duplicate the excitement, adventure, glamour and glitter, fashion and fame that Jem was really about, and if the next generation turned away from it, we would at least know that for sure.
Instead, we got someone taking the name of a beloved franchise from our nostalgic past and using it it try and rehash a different story altogether that nostalgia buffs didn’t want to see and Millenials are clearly tired of hearing, and the result was a disaster that lasted shorter than a lot of other fleeting YouTube celebrities.
Truly, truly outrageous, indeed.
This article was originally published on manic-expression.com.