A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Jem and the Holograms is a live-action adaptation of the popular late '80s cartoon about Jerrica, a young woman who disguises herself as "Jem" when she performs. The movie is aimed at tweens, particularly girls, and stays appropriate enough for preteens. There are a couple of kisses; a mouthed "oh, s--t" (plus a couple of uses of words like "hell" and "ass"); and a scene featuring a shirtless young man wearing only a towel (the camera lingers on his chest). In one sequence, Jerrica and her sisters sneak onto the Santa Monica Pier and jump off of it to escape the police, and, in another, two characters also sneak into a building. Otherwise, there's nothing overly edgy about this story that encourages being true to yourself and expressing who you are creatively. But adults intrigued by the nostalgia factor should know there are major differences between the animated series and the movie.
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What's the story?
JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS is a live-action modernization of the popular late '80s cartoon. In the movie, orphaned Jerrica Benson (Aubrey Peeples) lives with her social media-obsessed sister, Kimber (Stefanie Scott); their aunt, Bailey (Molly Ringwald); and Bailey's foster daughters, Aja (Hayley Kiyoko) and Shana (Aurora Perrineau). After Kimber convinces her sisters to raid Aunt Bailey's garage for costumes, Jerrica eventually loosens up enough to record one of her own songs while wearing a pink wig and heavy makeup. Kimber secretly uploads the video to YouTube, calling Jerrica "Jem" (the nickname their father had for her); by the next morning, the song's gone viral, attracting attention from Erica Raymond (Juliette Lewis), the splashy CEO of Starlight Records. Jerrica must balance her newfound fame with Erica's desire for her to go solo, a distracting scavenger hunt to fix Synergy (her father's unfinished robot invention), and a promising relationship with Rio (Ryan Guzman), her record-label handler.
Is it any good?
This adaptation of the popular '80s animated series will likely entertain preteen girls, but Gen-Xers who grew up watching the show will find only a few fleeting tributes to the hit cartoon. Some changes are understandable, but the Jerrica-to-Jem transformation is more Hannah Montana-meets-Justin Bieber-style viral YouTube sensation than anything that resembles the spirit of the TV series. But maybe that's not surprising, given the fact that the movie's director is Jon M. Chu (who directed two Bieber documentaries), and his fellow producer is Bieber's own manager/BFF, Scooter Braun.
On the bright side, the musical performances are strong thanks to Peeples' talent (she also co-stars on Nashville). The songs are catchy girl-empowerment anthems that seem like plausible Katy Perry or Taylor Swift-style hits. And Lewis' egomaniacal record producer is hilariously shallow; the actor obviously relishes playing a Machiavellian executive. The sisters don't have much to do except look pretty and act supportive or surprised, while -- as the obvious love interest -- Guzman (last seen as JLo's young lover-turned-stalker in The Boy Next Door) is attractive in a way that's not too intense for the not-quite-teen set. Oh, and original Jem devotees should stick around through the end credits for a "reward" scene that's obviously just for fans of the cartoon.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Jem and the Holograms depicts fame, especially viral Internet/YouTube fame. Why does Jem have trouble adjusting to her whirlwind celebrity? Do you think artists/performers have to make concessions for their fame?
Talk about the enduring popularity of movies based on TV shows. Does Jem and the Holograms live up to nostalgic expectations? Does that matter? What audience do you think its trying to appeal to: today's kids or grown-ups who loved the cartoon?
Those familiar with the original show -- how does the movie adaptation compare? What parts of the show translated well, and what parts do you miss?
- In theaters: October 23, 2015
- On DVD or streaming: January 19, 2016
- Cast: Ryan Guzman, Molly Ringwald, Aubrey Peeples
- Director: Jon M. Chu
- Studio: Universal Pictures
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Friendship, Music and Sing-Along
- Run time: 118 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: thematic material including reckless behavior, brief suggestive content and some language
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