I am taken to a place where music is magic in what is obviously the first 5 fifteen minute episodes of the TV series Jem. These 5 fifteen minute segments combined form the movie "Jem - Truly Outrageous."
I went in the movie knowing a few things:
1) This show was also used as a commercial to sell dolls
2) I grew up hating these 5 episodes
3) I used to avoid these songs like the plague
Upon re-watching this movie in 1995 (1985 was when it was released) I came to realize a few things about the expectations I brought with me:
1) Even though the show was used to advertise dolls sales, it didn't stop the writers (Christy Marx in particular who wrote all 5 segments as well as the series' bible) from creating fully believable characters that we care for.
2) These first 5 episodes have a certain charm. The early animation now has this special 80's retro feel. It's almost like a love letter to all things 80's: pop music, rock music, bright fashions, clashing colors, foster children (Punky Brewster anyone?)
3) These songs are so awesome. Sung by the talented Britta Phillips as Jem and Ellen Bernfeld as Pizzaz, lead singer of The Misfits.
Truly Outrageous chronicles Jerrica Benton's journey to keep Starlight Music, her father's legacy. Having just died, Jerrica and her sisters (Kimber and foster sisters Shana and Aja) are left with Starlight House, a home for foster girls and Starlight Music, a music studio that was made to support Starlight House. Jerrica's share of Starlight Music is being phased out however when co-owner Eric Raymond decides to take Starlight Music in a much harder direction with The Misfits. Jerrica finds a holographic projector with artificial intelligence named Synergy who helps her create her alter ego rock singer Jem as Kimber, Shana and Aja become her bandmates, The Holograms. The movie centers around a battle of the bands between Jem and the Holograms and The Misfits in which the winner gets Starlight Music and a movie deal. Eat that American Idol.
Among all of this we have "excitement, adventure, fashion and fame." Throughout just this one film, our heroes almost get driven off a cliff, hit by a boat, kidnapped and held hostage. On top of that, there's the on going drama about Jem's secret identity. Will she be found out? Will Jerrica's boyfriend find out that she's also Jem whom he also has feelings for? Will Starlight House and Starlight Music be saved? We want Jem to win for the most part because her struggle isn't just for her, it's for her family. All of that while wearing heels and playing instruments.
The movie is obviously episodic, but I didn't find it too distracting, and the songs are hella catchy. I'm surprised a soundtrack hasn't been released, but I hear it's stuck in all this legal drama as well as future DVD releases of the series. I bet Jem herself could solve it if she were for realsies. Oooh, fan fic idea.