There was one news story yesterday that I could not escape if I tried: the Jem and the Holograms live-action reboot. My Facebook and Twitter feeds were filled with Gen-X pals showing genuine excitement over this film. And I cannot for the life of me understand it. This is not going to be a nostalgia-fest for original fans of the Hasbro doll and TV cartoon, which aired from 1985-1988 and centered around a badass record exec, Jerrica Benton, whose secret identity involved fronting an all-lady band as a hologram. By all means, it was a “truly outrageous” concept. But the Jem movie will be a product aimed at tweens, centered around an orphaned teenage girl who becomes a YouTube sensation and launches a band with her sisters, according to The Hollywood Reporter .
Further proof that the Jem and the Holograms movie will be about YouTube sensations can be found in the folks behind the scenes: Scooter Braun, the man responsible for turning Justin Bieber from viral cute-kid into pop’s wealthiest meme, is one of the film’s main producers. He’ll use the Bieber model to cast the Jem movie: “We are looking for the most talented girls and boys in the world to be in our movie… we want you to be our movie star,” he says in a video announcement for the project (below). Braun and his associates are asking for videos under two minutes from unknown triple threats — that’s singing, dancing, and acting for you newbs — to be submitted via the movie’s Tumblr.
Braun is first and foremost a businessman, and this is looking like another strategy: to find his next viral-sensation client and cast them in a movie about viral sensations. Now that could actually sell records.
Rounding out the behind-the-scenes players are director Jon M. Chu, horror film producer Jason Blum (best known for Paranormal Activity), and screenwriter Ryan Landels (whose IMDb shows no writing work of note). In nearly every news story I’ve read, Chu is billed as the director of G.I. Joe: Retaliation, which does very little to instill confidence in this musical endeavor. Now, I gotta give Chu credit when it comes to choreography: he’s directed two Step Up movies (the second and third ones), and he’s in a dance crew himself. So for those calling him some “action flick dude,” back up and bow down to the greatness of Step Up. But besides that, it’s not looking good.
Moreover, it doesn’t appear as though anyone from the Jem and the Holograms cartoon is involved. Yesterday, Christy Marx, Jem series creator and head writer, posted a statement on her Facebook page detailing her lack of involvement. “I don’t think I can hide that I’m deeply unhappy about being shut out of the project. That no one in the entertainment arm of Hasbro wanted to talk to me, have me write for it, or at the very least consult on it. I wouldn’t be human if that failed to bother me,” Marx wrote, adding that the lack of female voices in the current production is also of concern.
I’ve spit some venom at Braun specifically, but the truth of the matter is that it’s rare for these kinds of remakes to appeal to original fans. As the source material gets older, remaking it successfully become more and more of a challenge. The OG Jem fans thrive on the nostalgia, not the cartoon’s content. So even if the reboot is well done, it’s simply aimed at a different demographic. In 2001, the live-action Josie and the Pussycats film was released, starring Tara Reid, Rachel Leigh Cook, and Rosario Dawson. And every single teen girl loved the shit out of it, because it was made specifically for us. If the Jem and the Holograms movie is done with half as much musicality as the Josie and the Pussycats movie, well, we should consider that a small victory. It’s probably all we can hope for.