Movie Review: Rock of Ages
Jun 16, 2012 / 11:30 am
A guilty pleasure is something one enjoys and considers pleasurable despite feeling guilt for enjoying it. The "guilt" involved is sometimes simply fear of others discovering one's lowbrow or otherwise embarrassing tastes. The movie Rock of Ages definitely qualifies as a guilty pleasure. This is by no means a great film, in fact it's quite mediocre, however what it is at times is a raucous, toe- tapping, head- banging fun time at the movies, providing that you're a huge fan of eighties hair metal music of course.
Based on the hit Broadway stage production, Rock of Ages begins with Sherrie Christian - played by the ridiculously cute Julianne Hough (damn you, Ryan Seacrest) - a naive farm girl from Oklahoma who's just getting off the bus in Los Angeles to make her dreams of becoming a singer come true. Of course not before singing the Night Ranger song "Sister Christian" on the bus - how obvious. Right off the hop you get a sense of the tone of the film.
This is an unabashedly tongue-in-cheek musical and a smile crept on my face since I've always been a big fan of the genre from Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers pairings to Gene Kelly classics all the way to the more recent Moulin Rouge and Chicago. Once in L.A. Sherrie ends up working at a bar on the famed Sunset Strip where she meets and falls for another aspiring rock star named Drew (Diego Boneta). The bar, which is run by Alec Baldwin and his right-hand man Russell Brand, is in financial distress and they're hoping that a concert performance by the legendary rock god Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise) will help keep them afloat. Trying to undermine them however is the slimy Paul Giamatti who plays Stacee's unscrupulous manager, and a religious zealot (Catherine Zeta-Jones) who happens to be married to the mayor (Bryan Cranston).
Naturally the film follows the tried and true formula of musicals, that is girl meets boy and falls in love only to have a misunderstanding pull them apart, and then eventually find their way back to one another. In between, of course, are many musical numbers of characters randomly breaking out into eighties rock songs by the likes of Def Leppard, Joan Jett, Foreigner, Pat Benetar, Quaterflash, Bon Jovi, Whitesnake and Journey, just to name a few.
The performances are pretty good for the most part. Diego Boneta and Julianne Hough have the most singing experience so their talents are displayed prominently, but it's Tom Cruise who is the real revelation in the film. His inspired performance as Stacee Jaxx is clearly an imitation of Axl Rose the way he prances around shirtless in a fur coat all while living the rock star life to full excess. He even has a pet baboon named Hey Man that follows him around everywhere and fetches him scotch. When he sings "Wanted Dead or Alive" by Bon Jovi you can see that his vocal lessons for the film paid off. His highlight scene is when he duets with Malin Akerman (who plays a Rolling Stone reporter) to the Foreigner hit "I Want to Know What Love Is". It's quite funny.
The most hilarious moment in the film however is reserved for Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand, who sing Reo Speedwagon's "Can't Fight This Feeling". You just have to see this awkward and hilarious scene. Catherine Zeta-Jones is over-the-top as the mayor's wife who wants to ban rock music in order to preserve good "Christian" morals. This was clearly a nod to the time when Christian fundamentalists tried to have heavy metal banned from the airwaves in order to push their hypocritical agenda on the masses. Thankfully sanity prevailed and it didn't work.
I wish that the film wouldn't have played it so safe though by glossing over the fact that the L.A. music scene was really dark in 1987 and had a seedy underbelly. It's never shown here, and the disneyfied versions of strip clubs were kind of laughable, but it is only rated PG-13 so there's that. You can call me nit-picky but the film is set in 1987 and they sing songs in it that were not yet released such as Poison's 1988 hits "Every Rose Has it's Thorn" and "Nothin' But a Good Time" and Extreme's 1990 hit "More Than Words". A little historical accuracy would have been nice.
The film is pretty uneven at times, and at just over 2 hours it overstays its welcome. Overall I would liken Rock of Ages to a piece of cotton candy - it's light and fluffy and sweet to the taste but evaporates very quickly - much like this light trifle of a film will fade from your memory rapidly. If you are a huge fan of eighties music and want to go sing along then you might have some fun with this, otherwise it's nothing too special.
I give Rock of Ages a 6 out of 10.
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