Sneak peek: ‘Jem’ gets outrageous reboot

A female rocker from the 1980s is getting a modern makeover but is still truly outrageous.

The new live-action Jem and the Holograms movie (in theaters Oct. 23) brings the glam and glitter of the 1985-88 musical cartoon — and Hasbro doll line — that little girls were wowed by 30 years ago while also creating a new coming-of-age origin story for the YouTube generation.

Director Jon M. Chu (G.I. Joe: Retaliation) says the film is much bigger than the rise of young Jerrica Benton (Nashville’s Aubrey Peeples) as a pink-haired pop princess.

“It’s actually about a group of young people who are going to be inundated with this idea of fame and fortune and products and stuff, and within all that, how do you stay true to who you really are?” he says. “That’s the real soul of the movie.”

Adds Peeples: “The whole thing is just quirky and cool and badass.”

The music is still contagious and Jem also throws in a hefty bit of ’80s nostalgia — and not just the frequent use of keytars. “Brat Pack” veteran Molly Ringwald even plays Aunt Bailey, the guardian of Jerrica, her sister Kimber (Stefanie Scott) and foster siblings Aja (Hayley Kiyoko) and Shana (Aurora Perrineau), who make up the Holograms group.

Jerrica is definitely a 21st-century sort of girl, Chu says. She’s shy and scared to use her voice after the death of her father, who taught her guitar and would call her “Jem,” yet still finds ways to make music even though she’s frightened of the stage.

However, her talent is discovered and even though she doesn’t want to be “out there” as a musical superstar, Jerrica is forced to embrace the over-the-top Jem alter ego in order to take care of her family and bandmates, says Peeples. “She never wanted to pursue the big costumes, lots of makeup, all that stuff. But in a way it helps her hide and have the confidence to come out and be this persona.”

Still, Chu adds, Jerrica worries that people will judge her because she doesn’t see herself as Jem. “We see the transformation as she gets brought into it, getting seduced by it, and at the same time trying to find her real self in between those two identities.”

Ryan Guzman co-stars as the love interest Rio, while Juliette Lewis is the film’s chief antagonist Erica Raymond, a Starlight Music record executive and the kind of person “tempting you with everything you really do want and need deep down somewhere in your dark place,” says Chu.

The director is incorporating fans’ contributions into the movie, asking them to submit performance videos and sing the praises of the old cartoon for use as a sort of “crowdsourced Greek chorus.”

Produced by microbudget filmmaker Jason Blum and Justin Bieber’s manager Scooter Braun, whose contacts Chu raided to commission original songs for the movie, Jem was a hard property to tackle, Chu acknowledges. For every fan of the retro cartoon’s random music videos, villainous punk-rock Misfits and hologram-with-a-headband Synergy, there’s somebody new who has no clue what Jem is or was.

The key for Chu was finding a way to explore the Jerrica/Jem dynamic in 2015. “How can you even have a secret identity with all this social media?” the director asks. “But then it dawned on us: Wait, everybody has a secret identity. The idea of ‘Who are you really?’ is more relevant today than ever.

“That’s what inspired me to say, ‘Let’s roll the dice and try to make this movie.’ ”

Original article from USAToday (view here)