Not much Rock in these Ages
Silly, superficial, misogynistic, and occasionally very fun, just like the music it celebrates, “Rock of Ages” is the big screen adaptation of the campy stage musical. But honestly, with music from bands like Poison, Whitesnake, and Twisted Sister, were you expecting “Les Miserables”? (Fear not, that movie musical arrives this Christmas).
Well, maybe. “Rock of Ages” director Adam Shankman grew up in Los Angeles, and his family was involved in the music business. Shankman directed the fabulous film version of “Hairspray,” and his background in choreography would lead one to expect some excellent dance numbers in “Rock of Ages.”
Sadly, though it begins on a promising note with fresh-faced girl from the sticks Sherrie (Julianne Hough) arriving by bus in L.A. with a chorus of passengers breaking into “Sister Christian,” it is a rocky road to fame for her, and an even bumpier journey for the audience. Sherrie will soon meet city boy Drew (newcomer Diego Boneta), who’s a barkeep at a fictional, hip nightclub on the Sunset Strip and who also has dreams of making it big. The couple is cute and can carry a tune, but is missing something in the credibility department, which would’ve helped considering the film’s thin-as-a-guitar-pick plot.
Purveyors of “The Bourbon” are Dennis and Lonnie, played for fun and occasional goofy charm by Russell Brand (why did he need an obviously fake wig?) and Alec Baldwin. Indeed, the film’s funniest moment is a duet the two share of a sappy REO Speedwagon song – coming just when the script’s imagination is about to fade.
As for Tom Cruise’s much ballyhooed take as Stacee Jaxx, an Axel Rose-Iggy Pop composite who stumbles around half drunk, makes swoon every female in his proximity, and can perform an amazingly credible version of “Wanted Dead or Alive” (arguably topping the original in sheer bravura), well, believe the hype.
It’s clear that once the filmmakers saw Cruise’s entertaining take, coupled with the realization the plot had little substance, his flamboyant embodiment warranted more screen time.
Unfortunately, his character has no arc and thus loses its edge as the film plods on. Catherine Zeta-Jones can bring it too, but she’s given the thankless role of a Mayor’s wife who thinks rock and roll will be the downfall of Los Angeles.
But maybe this preposterousness is the point. (A real baboon steals nearly every scene.) And if fans of the music can tolerate the low-wattage singing performances, there are almost as many laughs as there are strippers (parents beware this is as racy a PG-13 as you’ll find).
Here’s an illustrative dividing line: REO Speedwagon is probably thrilled to death to be on this soundtrack – meanwhile Joan Jett is somewhere incredibly embarrassed that she is, too.
Rated PG-13 for sexual content, suggestive dancing, heavy drinking and language.