Universal is pulling Jem and the Holograms from theaters after failing to make back its $5 million budget in two weeks of wide release.
“Jem and the Holograms” is the kind of film that should be taught in film schools. Sure, I appreciate creating a proper sense of film canon and history. It’s just that new generations of directors should understand things like adaptation, tonal shifts and film logic. These things don’t need strict adherence, but a basic acknowledgement that they exist. What director Jon M. Chu did to “Jem and the Holograms” strikes as a good idea that no one tried to rework.
Let’s get the basics out of the way for the few folks that haven’t heard about it yet. The film version of Jem jettisons most of the trappings of the old cartoon to make something far more modern. You get name service, the musical conceit and general sense of glam. The rest of the film is based in the limited budget and cheap nature designed to appeal to kids. Are you ready?
The film begins with Jem and her sister being sent to live with Aunt Molly Ringwald and her ethnically ambiguous adopted kids. They form a band and use YouTube to get big. YouTube comes up a lot in the film, as the director splices in real fan footage and random clips to help pad out the nearly two hour run time. If that sounds crazy, well there’s also a scavenger hunt from Jem’s father to assemble a robot to help their sound and lives. This is so ridiculous that I’m stunned that I couldn’t appreciate it.
Juliette Lewis tries her hardest to work as the villain, but everything she does is based in a logical fallacy. She attempts to make a minor sign over her creative rights via an identity that the label created. All the while, Jem was seemingly underage and using an alias when she signed the contract. None of the Holograms’ concerts seem to sell out, yet we’re led to believe that she’s the biggest thing since Rebecca Black. Ultimately, it means nothing. Jem and her family of Holograms learn that the music and heart is all that matters.
After I finished the film, I sat back slack-jawed. Had I truly seen the girl nerd equivalent of the horrible “Masters of the Universe” film? A rushed production that wants to capitalize on a fanbase by making the most low rent take on the matter? Well, there’s a difference here. Masters of the Universe came out right when the initial MOTU fan sensation was coming to an end. Jem and the Holograms had 30 years to either work out a better film or just leave some 1980s cartoons to your terrible memory.
I support girl geeks, fans or whatever getting these kinds of films. They need to share in the misery of having childhood favorites being revisited. Your girlfriend, wife, sibling, non threatening female friend always makes fun of you for bitching about Henry Cavill as Superman or how Michael Bay ruined Transformers. Now, they have this black mark on their mental record. Hopefully, we can all use this experience to move forward as a creative culture and demand original content.
(pause for laughter)
I have a backlog of theatrical reviews to finish and after today’s announcement of Universal yanking the film from theaters, I figured I needed to get it published. While failing to make back its limited budget is pretty harsh, there’s another record that the film picked up in its short run. “Jem and the Holograms” made around $550 per theater in its run. Given the amount of screens it played on, it showed to more empty rooms than ones filled with viewers. But, the real kicker is that it’s the third lowest grossing movie ever released by a major studio. Only kiddie flicks “Delgo” and “The Oogieloves” tops the film in terms of financial disappointment.
While box office means very little to critical and fan appreciation, it does serve as a record on a misfire of a film. When awful male powered childhood nostalgia hits theaters, it fares better and might even break even. But, women will reject such schlock with the scorn of the opened Ark of the Covenant. Fascinating stuff. Come for the robot, stay for the Ke$ha cameo.
RELEASE DATE: 10/23/2015