Rock Of Ages Movie Review
She’s just a small town girl and he’s just a city boy, both meeting on the Sunset Strip in 1987 Los Angeles. As long as they “Don’t Stop Believin'” in their dreams of becoming musicians and their love for one another, Sherrie (Julianne Hough) and Drew (Diego Boneta) will be able to overcome all the obstacles that come their way. Unfortunately, ROCK OF AGES offers nothing new and goes on and on and on and on.
Lets set the stage a little clearer. Sherrie moves to the city, gets robbed, meets Drew. Drew hooks her up with a job at a famous but now struggling Rock club ran by Dennis Dupree (Alec Baldwin). Hopefully the club will turn things around as super star rocker but unreliably aloof Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise) is scheduled to perform in a few days before launching his solo career. Through a series of unmotivated misunderstandings and bad decisions our characters go through the normal unoriginal steps of lazy story writing mishaps. Only to finally come together through the spirit of Rock N Roll.
The rest of the supporting cast includes: Paul Giamatti as the sleazy agent, Catherine Zeta-Jones as an activist protesting Rock and Roll, Mary J. Blige as the owner of a strip club with a heart of gold, Malin Akerman as a Rolling Stone reporter who breaks through the emotional walls of Stacee Jaxx and Russell Brand as the more than right hand man of Dennis Dupree. It was fun seeing all these known actors play out-of-the-box, wearing absurd wigs and wild costumes as they sing famous rock tunes. And I think for the most part everyone does a fine job. I even laughed out loud a few times. But the visual joke wears off quickly and ultimately, I think they were having far more fun than we do watching them.
The fault of ROCK OF AGES lies nowhere close to the actors but instead with every other aspect of the adapted off-Broadway musical. Since about 95% of the film consists of singing, I must direct my attack there. For having such a rockingly awesome 80’s soundtrack, ROCK OF AGES lacks a surprisingly amount of energy. Part-time So You Think You Can Dance judge Adam Shankman, who directed such gems as BRINGING DOWN THE HOUSE, THE WEDDING PLANNER and CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN 2 (please note sarcasm), lacks style, inspiration and structured pacing in his direction. All the music is far too polished and misses all the raw emotion and passion of live music that it’s meant to emulate. One of the great things about songs from Poison, Def Leppard, REO Speedwagon, Bon Jovi and Guns N Roses, whose songs are all used in the film, is their ability to scream their vocals in such a controlled, out-of-control way. While visually looking raw the songs in ROCK OF AGES are sung far too soft and clean to ever really blow the audience away.
As an amped up 80’s rock version of Glee or High School Musical, the film succeeds. As long as you like those shows (for the record I do not) or you love 80’s music, I’m sure many will blindly love ROCK OF AGES. But simply putting classic cool music into your film does not make it good. Like killing a dog in a movie just to squeeze out emotion from the audience, ROCK OF AGES relies heavily on the cheap trick of striking a chord in one’s heart by playing Journey.