I... don't really want to 'Rock'
New musical is 80's at its... finest?
Published: Thursday, June 14, 2012
Updated: Thursday, June 14, 2012 23:06
The terror of “Glee” has finally birthed its first knock-off. Yes, I know “Rock of Ages” was originally a Broadway play released before the show began, but there’s no other reason it’d be turned into a movie that’s essentially karaoke with famous people if it wasn’t for the record-breaking Fox juggernaut. (Even if those records are broken by the same ten-thousand teenage girls buying every song the show releases.)
There’s no reason for “Rock of Ages” to even exist, since it doesn’t really have a plot and relies on 80’s nostalgia from start to end. I’m not going to say it’s terrible, but I will say that your enjoyment of the film is directly related to your affinity for musicals, big hair or Journey. Or all three.
Like I said, the plot is weak enough that if it was a camel, a single straw would break its back. Small-town girl Sherrie Christian, named that specifically so the film can open with Night Ranger’s “Sister Christian,” meets city boy Drew. They both work in a 1987 concert hall, want to become singers and fall in and out of generic Hollywood love through montages and hokey power ballads. Their actors are both Hollywood newbies with no chemistry, so their scenes so boring and forgettable that I’m not even going to bother trying to remember their names.
The supporting cast fares better, mainly because they don’t have to try hard to beat the leads’ performances. Tom Cruise is actually pretty fantastic as Stacee Jaxx, an Axl Rose-style rock singer who’s out of his damn mind, complete with a pet monkey named Hey Man. Cruise clearly gave his all in the film, and it shows; his performance of “Wanted Dead or Alive” actually made me like Bon Jovi for a few minutes, and his drunken antics are insanely watchable.
Russell Brand and Alec Baldwin steal the movie. It’s not really because of their acting, or their singing, or their jokes. It’s their treatment of “Can’t Fight This Feeling,” which really has to be seen to be believed. Yes, they get their own love ballad, and it’s hilarious.
I already said this, but the plot’s pretty much nonexistent. It’s just a few lines of dialogue that bridges the songs every few minutes. Oh no, a love triangle broke the kids up! Oh no, the concert hall might close down! Oh no, this movie’s way too predictable when you realize it’s building up to a big happy “Don’t Stop Believing” ending so you know there are no real stakes!
Then there’s the songs’ transfer to film, whose treatment is… decent, I guess. The choreography is unfortunately ruined because the editing too choppy to see any of the dancing. It preserves the syncing, but it really removes a lot of what could have made the film rise above what it is.
But what’s the best or worst part about the film, depending on your view, is that 80’s music is hokey as all hell. That crosses over into the thin plot to make the entire movie either one big joke or knowingly self-aware. The big song that earns Drew a record contract in a hard rock concert hall? “I Wanna Rock,” a song that’s been neutered to the point where it was rewritten for “Spongebob.” At least three Poison songs make appearances, which is good in theory until you realize Bret Michaels has been a punchline for a decade. A bitter battle between “true rockers” and “moral crusaders” is set to a mash-up of “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and “We Built This City,” two songs that have become faded enough to cross into child culture (the former was in “Regular Show,” the latter in “The Muppets”). There’s no real bite, no real plot and not much good humor; all “Rock of Ages” has is its soundtrack. Love the 80’s? See it. Don’t? Run far away.