Rock of Ages
Directed by: Adam Shankman
Released on: June 15th, 2012
Rating: 1.5 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: Justin Tucker
The ability to enjoy the musical Rock of Ages will most certainly depend on whether or not you enjoy 80s hair metal and arena rock. The film is set in the year 1987, and in that particular year, I was a young lad of three years old going on four. In that regard, I have no nostalgic attachment to the music scene the movie celebrates. The songs used throughout the film are without a doubt ubiquitous in our culture, but if rocking out to the likes of Def Leppard, Twisted Sister and R.E.O. Speedwagon is your thing, then maybe you can forgive the formulaic nature of the film. Rock of Ages is based on an off-Broadway musical of the same name, but instead of employing a Rogers/Hammerstein or a Lloyd Webber/Rice, it basically took the top plays from a trashy strip club jukebox and created an uninspired story around it.
The film takes place at the Bourbon Room, a rock club situated on the Sunset Strip. Small-town girl Sherrie (Julianne Hough) arrives in Los Angeles in hopes of becoming a famous singer and lands a job at the club with the help of Drew (Diego Boneta), a lowly bar back who also dreams of becoming a famous musician. In predictable musical comedy fashion, Drew and Sherrie develop a relationship that will certainly have its highs and lows as a way to be a catalyst for trite romantic conflict.
Meanwhile, the owner of the Bourbon Room, Dennis Dupree (Alec Baldwin), finds himself stuck with an enormous tax bill. In order to relieve himself of the burden, he books the band Arsenal for their last show before their flaky frontman Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise) embarks on a solo career. Jaxx’s appearance at the club draws the ire of Patricia Whitmore (Catherine Zeta-Jones), the mayor’s wife, who organizes a protest against Jaxx and the Bourbon Room for indecency just in time for the reelection campaign of her husband (Bryan Cranston).
Rock of Ages does try very hard to be fun, but ultimately fails in being anything near it. There were times throughout my screening of the film that I had to fight off sleep, but like the trooper I am, I kept awake so I would be able to make a fair judgment about the film. Director Adam Shankman (Hairspray) does capture all of the flamboyance and pomposity that the 80s cock rock scene offered, but the inept script from Justin Theroux, Allan Loeb and Chris D’Arienzo keeps the film from crossing the threshold into mildly entertaining.
To make matters worse, a mostly great cast under any other circumstance wastes their talent. Russell Brand is consistently annoying as Dupree’s manager and lover, Lonny, but that really just goes without saying. Zeta-Jones, who won an Oscar as Velma Kelly in the musical Chicago, is a disappointment, as she seems to just be going through the motions. Both Cruise and Baldwin could be forgivable if they could have just taken a few more singing lessons. Paul Giamatti, who plays backstabbing manager Paul Gill, and Mary J. Blige, who plays showgirl Justice Charlier, are the film’s only interesting characters, though one would wonder why they would waste their time with this film.
If you can tolerate it, Rock of Ages might just be up your alley if you want a harmless, nostalgic escape that may cause a severe case of earworm. For the rest of us, Rock of Ages is a turkey for the ages.
Rock of Ages