This Jem is less a movie than an open-source brand launch: If you're young and down or bullied or disconnected from the life around you, you could always slap on some glitter and film yourself singing as the cartoon-rock queen Jem. Aubrey Peeples, playing the singer, even gets a sort of Tom Joad speech in the final minutes, explaining that Jem is all of us and any of us, that she'll be there when we need her. That's heartening -- here's hoping the copyright holders remain supportive. And the filmmakers have done the Jem-faithful the strangest of favors: The production values here are pretty much what yours would be if you re-shot the movie yourself on some iPhones.
All that adventure/excitement and fashion/fame promised in the Eighties cartoon show's theme song proves beyond the budgetary scope of this iteration, which is mostly a series of fumbled close-ups of the star and her band/sisters, as a wicked manager (Juliette Lewis) undertakes to make them over and fully monetize that talent.
That manager's goal: lift Jem from internet-famous to famous-famous, a distinction that the movie highlights in its on-the-cheap way. The film's poky and confused, never clearly setting up its conflicts and blowing its running time on a National Treasure clue-hunt for messages Jem's father programmed into a sassy dancing robot. The songs, sung well by Peeples, are rousing, but not so much that the world's immediate embrace of Jem makes clear sense. Director Jon M. Chu splices in YouTube clips of real-life fans gushing about how Hasbro's Jem character changed their lives, and that passion is queasily incongruent with the earnest, low-key young star of the movie.