A movie, based on a musical, based on a bunch of rock songs from the 80’s. Add Tom Cruise as a creepy, messed-up rock diety and an opening scene of a bus-load of people singing “Sister Christian”, and you’ve got a reason to get drunk for two hours so you can get throught it.
Rock of Ages, a movie, based on a musical, based on a bunch of rock songs from the 80’s. Add Tom Cruise as a creepy, messed-up rock diety and an opening scene of a bus-load of people singing “Sister Christian”, and you’ve got a reason to get drunk for two hours so you can get throught it. The fact that I owned that record once notwithstanding, I’m a little weirded out by the fact that the people that liked these songs then, are now people that like to see musicals. I mean, I still listen to Motorhead which is much too heavy for the fans of movies like this. When Lemmy stars in this kind of musical, then I’ll know the fat lady has sung.
Ah, the set-up: Sherrie, a small town girl, meets Drew, a big city boy, on the Sunset Strip to follow their dreams to stardom. But will their road to fame – and love – be paved with nightmares? Well, they’re sure as Hell sing their way to finding out.
Yeah, the opening scene as Sherrie starts siniging the classic Night Ranger power ballad that put them on the map, and subsequently kept them a one-hit wonder, would probably have sat better with me if I had been drinking enough to sing along. Because let’s face it, I’m a product of that time. “Sister Christian” was part of my high school days, and I still enjoy singing along to Bon Jovi’s “Living on a Prayer”. But I sing in spite of it rather than a drunken frat boy way. Yes, I’ve just dated myself. And though I’m perhaps loath to admit it, this movie, based on a play, is aiming at me as a target audience. I kind of wish it had aimed at my head and put me out of my misery before the two hours were done. There isn’t much original here, same story just different time. It’s not like you don’t know where it’s going (SPOILER, kind of): girl meets boy, a break up, boy signs recording contract and they both end up far from their original dream. Then weird stuff happens involving Tom Cruise, and happily ever-after. Oh, and there’s a bunch of songs I loved in high school in between.
Now, I’m not against musicals. Not at all. I have seen quite a few in my day. I’m secure enough in my manhood for that. But there is something extra goofy – hokey – about Rock of Ages at times. Then, at other times, it’s kind of racey and adult. The two young leads, Diego Boneta as Drew and Julianne Hough as Sherrie, are surprisingly talented vocalists, but are a little lacking in the acting. But I suppose they convey the syrupy sweet, hokey naivete’ they were asked to portray. Then a scene with the Tom Cruise character and Malin Ackermans’ is more than a little suggestive which is a weird contrast. Not that I mind Malin Ackerman in her underwear, but with Cruise’s head between her legs, well, not so much.
Strangely, everyone in Rock of Ages is a pretty damn good singer- with the exception of Alec Baldwin and Paul Giamatti. Luckily neither sing all that much. Most surprising – and unsettling, however, is that even Tom Cruise is a good singer. Xenu has given him great powers. Or maybe his parents made him take singing lessons as a kid, who knows? I still find it disconcerting somehow.
Cruise plays rock god Stacee Jaxx, the front man for the fictional band Arsenal. Cruise swaggers and slithers about with his long hair and fake tattoos like what our parents probably think is exactly how rock stars act all the time. But I can’t help but feel like he was “acting” like a rock star. Maybe it’s supposed to be an exaggeration because it’s a musical? Is it really satire? Ok, fine. He comes complete with a perpetual bottle of booze in his hand, borderline nonsensical existential statements, and a baboon sidekick named “Hey Man”. Leave it to the animal to be the funniest thing in the movie, along with Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand, the owners of the club The Bourbon Room. Actually the baboon was funnier. Then Baldwin and Brand offer the second most unsettling moment in the movie.
Bryan Cranston and Catherine Zeta-Jones play the new mayor of Los Angeles and his Tipper Gore type wife, looking to clean up the Sunset Strip of all these “devil-worshipping rock n’rollers”. Zeta-Jones is great, and can still really sing. Alas, Bryan Cranston’s talent was utterly wasted here. Giamatti plays the sleazy record company agent just looking to make more money regardless of anyone’s real passion for music and creativity. He’s great, he’s Paul Giamatti.
I suspect there will be an audience for Rock of Ages. If you like musicals and love the 80’s rock hits, you’ll probably have fun with this. Did I lke the music? Sure, it’s all the stuff I listended to in high school and college. But in my head, I was singing the original versions, not these bastardized ones. Somehow it makes them all feel like bad Muzac. Maybe I’m being a stickler. And I just couldn’t get into the hokiness of it all. This is definitely a film for a niche audience. For me, only about 2 kittenhands. Lovers of musicals, probably more. Why risk it – just rent it later. Ultimately, what I took away from Rock of Ages is that Catherine Zeta-Jones is still really hot.
~ Neil T. Weakley, your average movie-goer, noting that I owned every album containing each song featured in this movie.