June 18, 2012

Movie Review: Rock of Ages

Rock of Ages is a show I had wanted to see for a long time on Broadway but just never got the opportunity to do it. Whenever I saw commercials for it, I knew I had to see it. It was filled with the songs of my youth. Hair metal, or whatever name you prefer, provided my entrance into music in the late eighties (I know, I was a bit late) and this show is just filled with those great songs of my youth. Well, when I heard it was in line for the big screen treatment, I was certainly looking forward to it. Finally, the opportunity to see it was heading my way.

I did not know anything about the story, and I really didn't need to. All I needed to know, I saw in band names like Def Leppard, Twisted Sister, Journey, and Warrant. I kind of like the idea of a jukebox musical based on rock tunes, we can't let Abba corner the jukebox market. The songs tend to be big and overwrought in the first place making them perfect for an overblown stage show (now translated to the big screen).

The story of Rock of Ages is set in the heyday of the hair metal on the legendary Strip where clubs like The Whiskey used to rule. Now, considering the family friendly (more or less) nature of the show and the PG-13 rating of the movie, the sex and drugs that walked hand in hand with the musicians all been watered down. Frankly, don't expect to see a look behind the curtain at the genre excesses in musical format. The story is much more traditional than that.

Sherrie Christian (Julianne Hough) is at the center of the story, an innocent girl from the mid-West who has come to Los Angeles to try and become a singer. Shortly after arriving, she meets Drew (Diego Boneta), a wannabe singer who works at the Bourbon. Their story tracks their respective dreams to make it big as they navigate the choppy waters of a relationship.

There are a few subplots woven into the fabric. One concerns the Bourbon's financial troubles. Another has the Mayor, played by Bryan Cranston, and his activist wife, Catherine Zeta Jones, trying to clean up the Strip by specifically targeting the Bourbon. The final thread surrounds rock legend Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise) and his slimy manager (Paul Giamatti). Of course, they all interact and mirror each other.

I have to say that I quite enjoyed the movie, but it was not as good as I had hoped. The movie has a good energy around it, generally decent performances, and fun songs, but it lacked a true emotional center. I know we are supposed to identify most with Sherrie and Drew, but they just did not have it. I actually saw more in Cruise's Stacee Jaxx, as the secluded star.

I would have loved to see a grittier look at era, but that was never going to be this story, so just forget about that. This may actually be the antithesis to what the scene was all about in with its sanitized and romanticized look. Still, it plays into fairy tale nature of the musical and still has a lot of fun.

I like the reinvention of the songs and the various mash ups. I liked Cruise's rendition of "Wanted Dead or Alive" and the mash up of "We Built this City" and "We're Not Going to Take It." Other highlights include "Hit Me with Your Best Shot" by Catherine Zeta Jones, who looks like she is having a blast with it and "Can't Fight this Feeling" by Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand.

No, not a great movie, but one that certainly entertained me. It had me humming along, tapping my feet and wanting to blast some Twisted Sister on my way home. Yes, the heart isn't really there, but it doesn't kill the movie for me. It is certainly worth seeing on the big screen and I have to say, Cruise does a pretty good job as the rock star, not to mention having a lively number with Malin Ackerman.



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