So here's the big question.
What is Rock Of Ages?
Is it some heartfelt paean to the hair metal bands that exploded from
the Sunset Strip and took over the world for a few years?
Is it the last gasp for 80's nostalgia?
Or is it just some excuse Tom Cruise found to get more greased up and
shirtless than he did playing volleyball in Top Gun?
Yes it is all of that, but Rock Of Ages is a movie in search of
a purpose, a meaning and a direction.
It's 1987 and The Bourbon Room is one of the hottest and most legendary
clubs on LA's Sunset Strip, but the tides of change are swirling. The
club is losing money, so owner Dennis Dupree (Alec Baldwin) is hoping a
big time show featuring the band Arsenal's final performance before
their iconic lead singer, Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise), embarks on a solo
career will bring the buzz and cash needed to keep the place going.
As Dennis and his right hand man, Lonny (Russell Brand) plan the
hottest concert of the year, a new girl just off the bus from Oklahoma,
Sherrie Christian (Julianne Hough), meets a fellow wannabe rock star,
Drew (Diego Boneta), in a love story just like paradise, and a right
wing crusader, Patricia Whitmore (Catherine Zeta-Jones) tries to get
the place shut down to benefit some powerful friends.
Have Sherrie and Drew found true love?
Will Stacee find his soul and revive his career?
Are you allowed to sing along during the movie?
Ultimately, Rock of Ages just exists to roll out those 80's
hits you love and feel the temptation to sing along with, but do you
really want to sing along with Tom Cruise and Alec Baldwin?
If director Adam Shankman wanted this to be a campy romp, that would
work out fine, as we sit back and watch a bunch of actors try to sing
at their tongue- in-cheek best and a few, especially Catherne
Zeta-Jones, seem to be winking at the camera the entire time. But,
Shankman is trying to inject some sort of soul and seriousness that
isn't there, which confuses the tone.
In between a series of hits Casey Kasem should be spinning, there are
lame and failed attempts to find redemption for the rock star living to
excess (he don't need nothing but a good time?), a pure of heart love
story as two crazy kids with stars in their eyes cross paths in the
middle of the night (on the midnight train going anywhere?) and some
call to keep the spirit of rock and roll alive (because I love Rock and
Roll, put another dime in the jukebox, baby!). If it was a parody or
campy, we would be laughing. Instead, it's sometimes funny, but other
times very boring, obvious, overly familiar and repetitive.
You can't blame anyone on screen. Cruise, Boneta, and Hough are
serviceable singers (with Hough showing some strong pipes from time to
time), but you quickly realize they are not in the same league as Mary
J. Blige (showing an intestinal fortitude every singer should strive
for) and a gang of 80's icons who show up to prove who the real singers
are and what they can do with this material. Just make sure you look
hard for them, because they aren't always obvious (which was fun).
It's the lack of story spelling doom for Rock of Ages. For the
first two acts, the movie pleases us with the songs we love, but the
last act, as Shankman and the writing team (including Jennifer
Aniston's boyfriend, Justin Theroux) struggle to find some sort of
point to it all, when the audience needs something more, makes you
realize they have run out of material. Then, the movie crashes and
Ultimately, Rock of Ages becomes exactly what the characters on
screen are railing against as the creative team cynically and
heartlessly use the songs you love to pull at your heartstrings and
sell some tickets, when they don't have anything more to offer.
Rock of Ages is rated PG-13 for sexual content,
suggestive dancing, some heavy drinking, and language.