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Contrived, uneven 'Jem and the Holograms' embodies the worst of 21st-century pop culture
Jem (Aubrey Peeples) gets advice from Erica Raymond (Juliette Lewis) in "Jem and the Holograms." - photo by Josh Terry
In his book "Outliers," Malcolm Gladwell suggests that it takes about 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert in your field. Jem and the Holograms figures it takes about a month.

Jem and the Holograms is actually more interested in a different Gladwell book, "The Tipping Point." Thats the one that says the difference between a successful product and a dust-gathering failure is getting it into the hands of someone with connections.

Jem is the stage name of Jerrica (Aubrey Peeples), a sensitive teen with a musical dream out in the California suburbs. Actually stage name isnt quite accurate, since Jem is super famous before her first public show. This fame literally came overnight after her younger sister Kimber (Stefanie Scott) uploaded a video of her playing an acoustic guitar and singing from behind a pink wig.

Within hours, Jerrica is getting big money offers and getting talked about on TV. Within a few more hours, shes negotiated a meeting with Erica Raymond (Juliette Lewis), the head of a major L.A. recording empire. And a few hours after that, she and her sisters her backup band that has never worked together beyond putting together mock music videos are getting image makeovers in preparation for their first tour.

At this point, you think Jem and the Holograms might be the 21st-century equivalent to That Thing You Do, Tom Hanks late 90s homage to the one-hit-wonder music business of the pre-Beatles era. But its hard to tell whether Jem is criticizing the phony life or glamorizing it.

And thats about when they introduce Jerricas cute, sentient robot friend, who wants to lead her on a treasure hunt to find an important message from her dead father. No, really.

The rest of the film veers wildly between the bands 30-day rags-to-riches story and Jerricas strange quest to solve the robots mystery. One minute she is warming up to Rio (Ryan Guzman), Ericas dashing son and heir to the empire. The next minute, were in the middle of a sci-fi movie watching a futuristic AI robot fire off holographic maps of the Santa Monica Pier.

Theres no obstacle in this film that cant be overcome with a quick cut and a hasty montage. Theres no way Jerrica and company can play the exclusive club. Then suddenly they can. Theres no way they can save their show after the power goes out. Then suddenly they can. The rest of the band turns on Jerrica when she signs the contract to go solo (approximately three weeks into their music career). Then they forgive her, because theyre family.

Everything is contrived, irrational and constantly punctuated by low-quality footage of semi-famous YouTube performers as a way of expressing some kind of empowerment message.

The acting really isnt that bad. Peeples handles her role fine, and Lewis seems to be having a good time as the diabolical music executive. Molly Ringwald also shows up as Jerricas Aunt Bailey, as an obvious nod to the films roots as a 1980s cartoon. The musical numbers are solid, and some of the films messages might actually be uplifting if director Jon M. Chu didnt slam them down repeatedly on the audience like he is swinging Thors Condescending, Preachy Hammer of Social Media Superpowers.

But when you see countless fans falling all over themselves for an overnight sensation, you are reminded of another film about the power of music, Cameron Crowes Almost Famous. In that film, Kate Hudson won a Golden Globe for showing how desperate a fans affection for rock and roll can be. Jem strains at that same poignancy, but fails horribly.

It desperately wants to be an epic, but instead Jem and the Holograms becomes a time capsule of all the instant gratification and fleeting attention spans that embody the worst of 21st-century pop culture. The thing thats awful about Jem and the Holograms is not how unrealistic it is, but rather how accurate you fear it might be.

Jem and the Holograms is rated PG for some profanity and suggestive material.