Director: Adam Shankman
Cast: Diego Boneta, Julianne Hough, Tom Cruise, Alec Baldwin, Russell Brand, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Paul Giamatti, Malin Akerman, Mary J. Blige
Silly, predictable, completely over the top, and extremely cheesy are the components that make up Rock of Ages, the latest musical to hit the big screen. No one is going to care that the film goes totally wacky with its story line because the film is loaded with tons of charm that will make you want to pull out your old leather pants, stomp your feet, grab a guitar, scream into a microphone, and fantasize about being a rock star. Rock of Ages is a welcome change from all the big summer blockbusters filled with super heroes, aliens, robots, and sci-fi special effects. Lovers of the great hits from the 70s and 80s are sure to go down memory lane while watching this lavish film that feels more like a concert than a movie.
The boy meets girl story is simple enough and has been told a thousand times before. Sherrie (Julianne Hough), a small town girl who can sing, comes to Hollywood to follow her dreams. She meets Drew (Diego Boneta), a bar tender at The Bourbon Room who is also an up and coming singer. Drew helps Sherrie get a waitress gig at that infamous club and the two singers fall in love and sing their way through turmoil and conflicts as they try to reach their goals of making it big in the music business.
Dennis (Alec Baldwin), the owner of The Bourbon Room, who is drowning in bills, runs his business with the help of his side kick Lonny (Russell Brand). In desperation to save his dying club, Dennis begs Paul Gill (Paul Giamatti), the manager of the rock legend Stacy Jaxx (Tom Cruise), to let the famous singer perform in a packed house to rake in just enough profit and save the bar from closing down. After all, Dennis gave Stacy Jaxx his first break on the stage and the rocker owes his former boss a favor. Paul is the stereotypical oily, sleazy, and corrupt music manager who hordes all the profits from Stacey’s performance and stabs Dennis in the back leaving him in a bigger financial mess than before.
Patricia Whitmore (Catherine Zeta-Jones), the mayor’s zealous and pious wife, is on a quest to shut down the famous night spot, clean up sunset strip, and stop Stacy Jaxx from ever performing his music in her fair city. Constance Stack (Malin Akerman) is a Rolling Stone reporter who is the only one brave enough to call Jaxx out on all his crap. Justice Charlier (Mary J. Blige) is the sophisticated madam of a strip club who comes to Sherrie’s aid in her time of need.
Together the cast romp their way through this highly stylized two hour music video that looks like the ultimate karaoke dream. Packed with songs from greats like Def Leppard, Journey, and Pat Benatar (just to name a few) the music is cranked up to full volume in this nostalgic trip back to the 1980s. There is a colorful recreation of Los Angeles from the 80s decade that makes for a nice backdrop to the film. The vintage fashion displayed on screen reminds us of why this time period was one of the worst fashion faux pas of the 20th century. Those of us who can remember this decade will get a good laugh out of the crazy big hair and layered clothing that thankfully is no longer in style.
Zeta-Jones looks like she is going to have her skirt fly over her head as she kicks her way through ridiculous dance moves that only a pro like her can pull off with finesse. Zeta- Jones is very convincing as the conservative slightly nutty politician’s wife gathering up followers for a cause no one cares about. Giamatti plays a sleazebag to a “T” but does not get to do anything else, making his character seem rather one dimensional. The chemistry between Baldwin and Brand is wonderful and provides for big laughs at just the right time. I for one was rolling in my seat each time those two came on screen – I just could not stop laughing. Akerman does surprisingly well as her character goes head to head with Jaxx who is shocked that anyone would dare to challenge him. Although Hough and Boneta are cute as buttons, they are both weak links in the movie. Hough looks great as Farrah Fawcett wanna-be but her voice sounds like a squeaky little mouse and she just was not convincing as a girl who could be the next great female rocker. This is Boneta’s first film and unfortunately, not fairing much better than Hough, has an unimpressive voice and acting ability. Blige only has to do what she does best and that is sing. Giamatti and Baldwin also get a shot at singing a few lines and thankfully they don’t have major singing parts.
Enough can’t be said about Tom Cruise’s outstanding performance as Stacy Jaxx. Cruise totally immerses himself in this role and knocks it out of the park. Taking on this character was a huge risk for Cruise. The performance could have made him a laughing stock….. Or go down in history as an actor who always takes a risk which pays off. Luckily, this will go down as one of Cruise’s most memorable performances. Like the surprise parody of the character Les Grossmen that Cruise played in Tropic Thunder, his portrayal of Stacy Jaxx is another satirical imitation that brings to life a big personality that is an arrogant, sex crazed, boozed up, shirtless aging rock star with gusto. Showing off a man living in his own world who wears a wild eye look just waiting for someone to defy him, is one of Cruise’s shinning moments as an actor. The intense energy level he uses to perform as a rock star just jumps of the screen, and the best part – the guy can actually sing – another big surprise!! He screams out “pour some sugar on me” at the top of his lungs in perfect pitch that you almost believe Cruise was the original singer. The opening entrance of Cruise in the film is priceless, and that scene along with some of his one-liners makes Cruise another reason why people will crack up when they see Rock of Ages.
There are shots of some dance sequences from the strip club that don’t quite fit the PG-13 rating of this movie and some may be offended by the camera angles of different female body parts. There really is not a lot of dialog in this movie because it is packed with so much music. You can barely take a breather and then the music starts blaring again. Rock of Ages is campiness on steroids – and that is the very appeal of the movie. The film is so ridiculous that it somehow manages to have an endearing quality that many will love. Rock of Ages is not about anything significant. The film is just a two hour musical event that will keep you singing even after you leave the theatre.