Rainn Wilson, Josh Gad, Emma Stone, and Teddy Geiger in The Rocker (2008)


(director: Peter Cattaneo; screenwriters: Maya Forbes/Wally Wolodarsky; cinematographer: Anthony B. Richmond; editor: Brad E. Wilhite; music: Chad Fischer; cast: Rainn Wilson (Robert ‘Fish’ Fishman), Christina Applegate (Kim), Emma Stone (Amelia), Teddy Geiger (Curtis), Jane Lynch (Lisa), Josh Gad (Matt Gadman), Jeff Garlin (Stan), Jason Sudeikis (David Marshall), Will Arnett (Lex), Fred Armisen (Kerr), Bradley Cooper (Trash), Jon Glaser (Billy), Jane Krakowski (Carol), Samantha Weinstein (Violet); Runtime: 102; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Shawn Levy/Tom McNulty; 20th Century Fox; 2008)

“If you have marginal talent as a filmmaker, this is the kind of a film you make.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

An innocuous rock film that has no edge and only gets worse when the story kicks in and it begins to obnoxiously glorify wholesome intemperance. It plays as a ridiculous homage to ’80s punk rock bands and harmlessly blends Disney-like innocent rockers with a party animal type trying to channel Will Ferrell silliness and a madcap Jack Black rock presence. It’s about a has-been rocker from the 1980s, the over enthusiastic, sloppy, sweaty, overweight, oafish and good natured Robert ‘Fish’ Fishman (Rainn Wilson) getting a second chance to catch his rock star dream twenty years later as a fortysomething, as he plays with A.D.D.– his nephew Matt’s (Josh Gad) high school band.

If you have marginal talent as a filmmaker, this is the kind of a film you make. It takes a walk on the mild side and the filmmaker probably prays to Mammon that he can strike it rich with an undemanding public that can tolerate such meant-to-be crowd pleasing idiotic entertainment. Peter Cattaneo (“The Full Monty”/”Opal Dream”/”Lucky Break”) doesn’t direct so much as supervise this ill-conceived screenplay, written by Maya Forbes and Wally Wolodarsky, so everything goes according to its formulaic plan. The predictable tale telegraphs its punches way before they land and leaves you with nothing to look forward to in the climax except relief that this overlong and waste-of-time dumb rock film has ended.

Clevelander Robert Fishman is the drummer and founder of the hair metal band Vesuvius, who was unjustly ousted from the band when their manager Billy offers the band a lucrative deal they can’t refuse but the offer is only in place if Fish is let go and a relative from Matchbox Records, the company offering them the contract, replaces him. Vesuvius (Will Arnett, Fred Armisen, Bradley Cooper) reaches mega-stardom, while Fish grows into a frustrated and self-destructive middle-aged man who hasn’t matured and is still harboring resentment at the band. After losing his telemarketer job at Zammit’s Metal Racking with an emotional outburst over a new hit ‘Vesuvius’ CD being aired and given the heave-ho from the apartment he shared with girlfriend Carol, the pony-tailed Fish moves in with his cold fish sister Lisa’s family. When sis’s nerdy and pudgy MIT bound son Matt suddenly finds his high school band needs a drummer on prom night– Fish is recruited. The sappy band has Matt on keyboards, nice girl neurotic Amelia (Emma Stone) as a bassist and the good looking Curtis (Teddy Geiger) as band leader, lead guitar player, song writer and lead singer. When the teens are punished by their parents and forbidden to practice, computer whiz Matt hooks up their laptops with webcams and they all practice from their bedrooms. Unaware that he’s on camera, Fish plays the drums in the nude. When Matt’s vindictive kid sister (Samantha Weinstein) uploads it to YouTube, it gets a ton of hits and “The Naked Drummer” routine lands the band a contract with Matchbox Records and their sleazy promoter David Marshall (Jason Sudeikis).

Christina Applegate plays Curtis’s attractive tattooed single mother, who becomes the love interest for Fish. The original songs are written by Chad Fischer of “Superman,” and are surprisingly better than the story. By the end, the life lessons sink in and, in this paint-by-numbers tale, our rocker man Fish has matured, realized his dream and even gotten a haircut. What the viewer got, was so many clear looks at Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and a gentle kid-friendly rock film that doesn’t quite rock.