Tuesday, November 3, 2015

A Truly Outrageous Jem Movie Review

Some things in our childhood we forget; they’re trivial to our growth and fleeting.  Some things we look at as fond memories with an occasional smile if we see them on TV or in an old shop window, but they pass through our memories the second they leave our site; they were a part we remember, but they weren’t huge "shapers" of it.  Some things, however, were such big parts our childhood that they were more than just a moment.  They were a definer.  That was Jem for me.  I am one of the most non-feminine people that I know.  Jem brought out the girl in me.  I played with the dolls with my cousin Michelle, we traded the outfits and played pretend (I was Jerrica/Jem and she was Kimber every time) in our Mamaw Lillie’s neighborhood every weekend.  I dressed up as her for Halloween, typed out her song lyrics in a book, and stayed up during the summer one middle school year until 7 AM just to watch Jem, and then I would go to sleep.  It wasn’t just my big cartoon fandom, it was a huge chunk of my childhood.  Any Jem Girl and Jem Boy knows that talk of the Jem movie has persisted for thirty years.  We fantasized about who would play what role and the plot…people even made fan sites dedicated to “The Cause.”  When news broke of the movie truly getting its day, I at first couldn’t believe it to be the case.  When it came straight from the mouth of Samantha Newark (the original speaking voice for Jem in the 80’s,), however, I realized that you can’t get a much more reliable source than that.  I couldn’t wait to get to the theater  and get there I did.

Sadly I now find myself disappointed, but not in the movie. I am disappointed in the fans and reviewers who have panned this wonderful tribute as something lackluster and untrue.  They have missed the mark and need to re-watch this movie.

I think the biggest problem that people had with this film has been the gripe that it was not following exactly to the original source material, and in the case of some Jem characters, the Jem Bible.  For those that have reviewed this movie before me or those that watched it and didn’t like what they saw, you are right.  It didn’t.  But hear my counter to your argument, please.  They didn’t follow the source material and you know what?  There is no way that they realistically could have for the design of the movie that they wanted to make and they were better for it because of that.  Now I am one of the strongest Jem dedicates out there and one of the originals as well so don’t even think of pelting me with the same cream pies Pizzazz threw around on the Countess’ yacht; just hear me out.  They made this movie in a modern time frame, with the Holograms as Millennials, not Baby Boomers.  Picture the 80’s Synergy being operational in a post 9/11 society.  The second a power source that strong was plugged in the Government would Red Flag it.  The first hologram she projected would cause NSA to snatch her up, lock up Emmett (if he were still alive) or Jerrica and the Holograms if they had activated Synergy, and re-locate every single Starlight Girl.  Even Emmett saw the potential danger in Synergy in Season 2 Episode 25, “Out of The Past,” when he watched in amazement and horror as Synergy created an entire Army of marching military troops in his garage.  In Season 2 Episode 17, “The Presidential Dilemma,” the Government did in fact try to dissect Synergy, and this was in pre-World Trade Center attack times.  What could we possibly expect to have fly in a movie in post terror attack time frames with tech like that, especially if we wanted it to be acceptable for what we grew up with?  If they had made it in the 80’s era it probably would have been more close to the source material, but society and the times can’t allow that, children.  Accept it and move on.  That being said, take the movie as it is so you can enjoy it:  An Alternate Universe (AU) Prequel to our favorite 80’s cartoon fandom.

Taking this movie as “from source” I can see where one could be upset.  Things like making Eric female, the reveal of Rio’s parentage (spoilers,) and even the smallest thing of Aja drumming (Season 2 Episode 1 “The Talent Search,” where Aja herself says, “I’m hopeless on drums!”) are enough to make die-hards bite their knuckles.  But if you take this as I said, as an AU prequel, you can enjoy it as the tribute that it was.  Personally, I could not have been happier.  They tracked the lives of Jerrica, Shana, Aja, and Kimber from childhood to teenage/young adulthood…a time period that you don’t see for anyone except Kimber in the cartoon, albeit briefly in flashbacks in Season 2 Episode 25, “Out of The Past” and Season 2 Episode 3 “Scandal” for Kimber.  The wonderful thing about the movie is that they still keep the character’s personalities; Shana is still the aloof fashionista.  Aja is still the tomboy tech genius.  Kimber is still the overly hyper, overly sensitive, heart on the sleeve little sister.  Jerrica is still shy and over protective at the same time, yet able to break out of that shell when hiding behind Jem’s “mask.”  The fact that they left these crucial personality details meshes wonderfully with the modern technology of the Millennial era since, thanks to YouTube, Kimber is able to upload her sister’s musical debut to make her “Internet famous,” starting the movie off in the right direction.  For me it was a beautiful thing to see, as in the cartoon you sometimes see the others have to pull the “for your own good” card on over protective Jerrica too.

I think the modern twist only added to it all, and this is included in the way that Emmett got Synergy to the girls.  A longer journey than the willed earrings and a van driving through the holographic wall of a movie theater, but just as entertaining and if anything, it gave it a more inspirational an existential twist for that whole “inner journey” kind of feel.  And the culmination of that trip, having Jerrica get all of the pieces put together and find what Synergy was all about…watching that scene all I heard in my head was a scene from Season 2 Episode 25, “Out of The Past:”

Jerrica:  We'll take care of the house and cook and clean and do everything if only...if you won't...Daddy...
Aja:  Please don't Shana and me and the girls away!  Please don't!
Emmett:  Aja...Aja, of course I won't.  You're the finest girls a father could ever ask for.

Yeah…I puddled during the cartoon and I puddled during the movie too.  Sue me.

That wasn’t the only flashback I had during this movie.  Some made me grin, some made me chuckle, and others made me outright cackle with laughter.  Personal highlights for me:
1:  During the dress up session in the beginning of the movie they paid tribute to the 2nd Generation Aja Doll’s costume, headband and all.  The top that Jerrica wore during this scene was a throwback to the famous purple dress that Jem wore during the “Deception” music video as well.

2:  My teenage daughter noticed the blonde/pink mixed wigs that Jem sometimes wore.  I pointed out that this was a throwback to the 1st Generation Jem doll in her early run.  They made the doll this way so that when her hair was down she could be dressed as Jem.  When you took the first layer of hair up and put it into Jerrica’s hat the bottom layer could be blonde and you could dress her in Jerrica’s outfit and voila’…instant Jerrica Benton doll.

3:  The tribute to the original 80’s Synergy by using the symbol that she wore on her chest on the Synergy robot’s LED lighting in the faceplate and on the startup display every time she began to project something.

4:  Rio calling the girls “Little Miss Pink Hair and the Sing-Alongs.”  Pizzazz called the girls this in Season 1 Episode 11, “The Last Resort.”  I cracked up a little too loudly in the theater over this one.

5:  The minor character tributes.  During the last concert you see people in the crowd sporting Clash wigs, sporting Astral wigs...it’s hard to notice, but if you look you see the details like this and it only makes you grin harder.

6:  Lindsay Pierce.  Sure, she isn’t our favorite 80’s V-Jay, but again…modern times.  She can’t be.  But she’s there, people.  And that is AWESOME. 

7:  The cameos.  Seeing Samantha Newark as the hairstylist (“Pink is my favorite color.”  Ohhhh, I giggled!) and Britta Phillips as the Stage Manager…I squealed.  This was my big seller for the movie.  I walked in cautiously optimistic, but if the two women that were the speaking and singing voices for Jem herself, the woman that WERE Jem, signed off on this project, that was good enough for me.  I wasn’t disappointed either.

8:  Anyone that was ever a Jem Girl or Jem Boy could hear Rio’s “I know Jem is supposed to be all about Glamor and Glitter, Fashion and Fame” reference.  And they all had to smile when he said that. 

9:  The costumes that the girls wore on stage when they sang “Youngblood” were a blatant restyling of the original outfits that they wore in Season 1 Episode 1 “In The Beginning” from their very first appearance as a band and I LOVED seeing that.  Kimber’s in particular was amazing.

10:  Last but not least… Rio in a white tux, Jem dressed up, and the two dancing after they kissed.  I saw the Glitter and Gold video in my head and I half expected Rio to ask if his “Golden lady cared to dance.”

11:  The video tributes.  Those videos were real people in videos submitted for the movie by fans that grew up with the movie or were newly exposed to Jem via Netflix or DVD.  Those were tributes to what the likes of Marx, Newark, Phillips, and all the other actors started and what this movie has carried on.  I cried every time they came on.  It was a testament to what having that kind of power can put a person in the position to do; either great horror or great good.  Those that worked on Jem have left a huge mark on the lives of people for great good and those testimonies show that.  They left a magnum opus.

The best part was that my fourteen year old kept giggling at the same token moments and grabbing my arm with a smile.  My six year old was up dancing in the aisle- literally dancing- during every song.  She has never done that; it moved her that much.  I tucked my children in that night, sat down, and uncharacteristically…the non girly-girl cried.  A thirty year wait had come to an end and I had gotten to share one of the biggest pieces of my childhood with two of my children that grew up loving the show because of me and loved the movie just as much.  It was probably one of the biggest moments of my life and I am so glad that I wasn’t disappointed.

I’m sorry for those that feel that this didn’t live “Up to code.”  If you can only read my review and look at it from the perspective that I do, and then re-watch it, maybe you’ll see it from fresh eyes.  You're lying to yourself if you say you still aren't happy that this movie is out there even if you weren't happy with it.  Heck, I heard "Love Myself" from the soundtrack on my local radio station and squealed, thinking, 'Jem is on the radio!  Jem is ACTUALLY on the radio for the first time EVER!'  In that moment I was four again.  Quite frankly I can only rate this movie with two words.  Two simple words that every Jem Boy/Jem Girl should know.  But I’m not gonna say em’.  Kimber always said them much better than me.

Christina Sizemore is trained in only four things:  writing, fighting, paranormal investigating, and being a mom.  At this point in her life she truly feels that she is not qualified to attempt to learn any new field.  A twenty year martial artist, mother of three, and writer who is working on the publication of her first book titled “Finding Your Way: A Guide To Your Path In The Martial Arts,” she spends her days working out, writing, making fanvids, going to DragonCon, and playing board games/video games/out in the yard with her kids and husband who are just as geeky as she is.  She is convinced that one day her skills will be of assistance in the Zombie Apocalypse and that while she is of no use in the kitchen, she can Buffy that zombie for ya or teach you the best way to get the blood stains out of your clothes (Psst…the secret is mixing Crown Cleaner and Shout.  Just sayin’.)

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