JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS Review: Not A JEM Movie, But Not A Bad Movie

It's kind of nice, actually.

Let's answer some questions for you up front:

No, in this movie, Jem is not a holographic image projected by Jerrica Benton's earrings and generated by her father's audio-visual entertainment synthesizer and holographic computer, Synergy.

No, The Misfits are not in this movie.*

No, this movie has very little to do with the original Hasbro series created by Christy Marx, save for several shared names and a logo. Yes, this sucks, because Jem is an incredible property with a legion of fans, and we deserve a movie that delivers on the title's promise.

With that out of the way, let's talk about the movie Jem and the Holograms. It's not bad! This is a movie aimed squarely at pre-teen girls who have never seen the original series, and while - again - that's a bummer, Jem has a message that these girls can't hear enough: be yourself. Even if other people think that self is weird or lame, the coolest thing you can be is you.

It's hard to hate a movie that so earnestly believes in that lesson, even if the moral is shrouded in a set of shiny, Generation Z, social media-obsessed trappings that necessarily distance it from anyone over the age of fifteen. Step Up, G.I. Joe and multiple Justin Bieber documentary director Jon M. Chu knows what kids like, and he's not afraid to serve exactly what they want. The film is interspersed with cutaways to YouTube musicians and dancers or Google Earth satellite images, and much of the plot development takes place via fun-loving montage. A magpie would make right away with this thing: it's shiny, it's colorful and it's very lightweight.

The cast falls somewhere in between harmless and good. Aubrey Peeples is an appealing presence as Jerrica, down-to-earth and likable, though when it's her time to take the spotlight as Jem, she never quite delivers that rock star luster. She's surrounded by a group of pretty and innocuous young ladies who have absolutely nothing to do beyond supporting our main character, which they accomplish admirably. Molly Ringwald's a barely present parental figure to the girls, but her few scenes are warm and a pleasing nod to the nostalgia crowd. Juliette Lewis takes a role that's little more than a stand-in for Parker Posey's Fiona in Josie and the Pussycats and kills it, making her Erica Raymond hilarious and deliciously mean. And last we've got Chu's Step Up star Ryan Guzman as Rio, exactly as adorable and pleasantly vacuous as that character requires. There are also a few great, surprising cameos that should remain unspoiled for anyone who cares.

I won't waste any time summarizing the plot, because there's very little of it, and what there is doesn't work.  The movie's all build-up and then sudden happy conclusion, with a conflict so brief and quickly resolved as to be utterly forgettable. We have a Synergy, a clear bone thrown to those of us who might clamor for such a thing, but her inclusion, as is, makes for the film's biggest weakness. Here Synergy is a cute little robot programmed by Jerrica's father before he passed away, serving as a scavenger hunt for Jerrica to discover something important her dad left for her. The film spends about 45 minutes on one of the most pointless MacGuffins in recent memory, and as this is a movie that doesn't need to be anywhere near its two-hour runtime, it's a plot that could be excised with ease.

But, in addition to its positive message and amiable young stars, Jem nails one very important part of this story: the music. Chu's Step Up experience certainly helps here: the songs are catchy and poppy, in the vein of Taylor Swift's 1989, and Jem's performances are the most stylish and eye-catching aspect of this very affordable-looking movie. And some people might think the earrings or the Misfits or the "truly, truly outrageous" of it all are the most important qualities of the original Jem and the Holograms, but true fans know that Jem is really about the music and the girl power, two things this movie does very right.

This movie is not for adults, but that's okay. It's 2015 and it's time for a new generation of girls to become obsessed with Jem. And this isn't a bad Jem for them to love.

*Evidently The Misfits make an appearance at the end of the credits, but my weak bladder betrayed me.