It’s hard to imagine a more perfect metaphor for the state of modern pop music than ‘Jem and the Holograms’. Taking the basic structure and post-punk iconography of the ’80s cartoon series about a globetrotting girl-band, the film proceeds to discard anything that might be genuinely interesting or inspirational about the concept, replacing it with pap pop, bland girl-power and contradictory messages about making it on your own.
Teenage songwriter Jerrica Benton (Aubrey Peeples) leads the kind of deprived childhood that’s only found in Hollywood movies – living in a huge house in California with her aunt (Molly Ringwald) and three sisters, all of whom seem to be able to afford recording gear, fashion and superfast laptops. When Jerrica becomes an overnight YouTube sensation under the name Jem, stardom comes calling in the form of Juliette Lewis’s brittle label boss. But Jem soon realises that life in the LA fast lane isn’t as glamorous as it looks on TV.
There’s fleeting pleasure to be had in seeing a film solely made to appeal to young women – the one notable male character he spends a lot of his time fawning over the heroine. But it’s all so horribly cynical, with every line, every twist and every note of music painstakingly focus-grouped to extract maximum cash value from the audience. At least there’s satisfaction in knowing that this tactic failed miserably: the film was a disastrous flop in the US. Hey, maybe audiences can think for themselves after all.