As long as you are not expecting the rock and roll version of “Mamma Mia,” (dirty fun, I guess) the coast should be all clear for you to enjoy the movie version of “Rock of Ages,” a musical tribute to 1980s hair metal that was originated as a musical in Hollywood, found its way to NYC, has received five Tony nominations and is still playing on Broadway.
Quite frankly, there is a lot to like in this lighter than air star-filled story about a small town girl Sherrie (Julianne Hough) who meets city boy Drew (Diego Boneta) on the Sunset Strip and together (at first anyway) they try to pursue their Hollywood dreams of rock stardom.
Sure, it’s a cliché as old as the Hollywood sign, but that is all that’s needed to get to the next steps which quickly start featuring a pretty tasty brew of heart-pounding hits from Def Leopard, Joan Jett, Journey, Foreigner, Bon Jovi, Pat Benatar, Twisted Sister, and Poison. So far so good.
The star names alone should be enough to make potential viewers incredibly curious as to what Alec Baldwin, Russell Brand, Catherine Zeta Jones, Paul Giammatti , Mary J. Blige and Tom Cruise are all doing in the same movie…and who’s doing the singing and the dancing…
Our lovebirds Sherrie and Drew work at the Bourbon Room, a cross between Whisky a Go-Go and Roxy. While always busy, the club has fallen on hard financial times and unless its owner Dennis (a hysterical Alec Baldwin) and his assistant Lony (Russell Brand doing what comes naturally…) can figure out how to pay their tax bills, they will be closed down. So all hopes are riding high on the fundraising power of a benefit farewell concert-featuring rocker Stacee Jaxx (a funny turn by Tom Cruise) before the rocker embarks on a solo career. Think of Axl Rose in his heyday coming to save your club. Jaxx embodies the stereotype of the rocker bad boy with the naked women as bed accessories, suggestive tattoos, whiskey for breakfast and a monkey for a pet. What could go wrong…right?
So here’s the deal, “Rock of Ages” could have rocked! Even with its silly romantic story line, the movie works because all the stars are on their game and in on the joke…if only the director, “Hairspray’s” Adam Shankman, had NOT decided that a film anchored on rock and roll could also make a cute movie, then the journey would have been complete. Not surprisingly, cute pathos does not really work.
For those of you wondering the million dollar question regarding Cruise’s role as a rockstar, the answer is that he almost pulls it off and he can actually sing. Cruise took intensive singing lessons — he apparently has a four-octave range) and belts out Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead or Alive” and Def Leppard’s “Pour Some Sugar on Me” among others. Clearly, he wanted to look as good as he did when he played a similar megalomaniac in the 1999 movie Magnolia…it’s just that I can never not see him as, well…Tom Cruise. He is almost too famous for even this. He IS Stacee Jaxx!
The real gems here are the little scenes that steal the movie such as the beyond funny duet between Dennis and Lonny. “I can’t hide this feeling anymore” has never and will never sound this comical. This duet alone is worth the price of admission.
Time: 1:57 minutes (way too long)
Rating: PG-13 (incredible what you can get away with these days.)