ROCK OF AGES
(director: Adam Shankman; screenwriters: Justin Theroux/Chris D’Arienzo/Allan Loeb/based on the stage musical by Mr. D’Arienzo; cinematographer: Bojan Bazelli; editor: Emma E. Hickox; music: Adam Anders and Peer Astrom; cast: Julianne Hough (Sherrie Christian), Diego Boneta (Drew Boley), Paul Giamatti (Paul Gill), Russell Brand (Lonny), Mary J. Blige (Justice), Angelo Donato Valderrama (Chico), Malin Akerman (Constance Sack), Bryan Cranston (Mike Whitmore), Catherine Zeta-Jones (Patricia Whitmore), Alec Baldwin (Dennis Dupree), Tom Cruise (Stacee Jaxx); Runtime: 117; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Matthew Weaver/Scott Prisand/Carl Levin/Tobey Maguire/Garrett Grant/Jennifer Gibgot; Warner Brothers Pictures; 2012)
“One of the more unbearable rock films I experienced, as its intended satire, farce and camp was totally underwhelming.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
One of the more unbearable rock films I experienced, as its intended satire, farce and camp was totally underwhelming. In a realistic note, the film was bizarrely bereft of any drug activity and was too superficial to have any emotional impact and it lacked humor (supposedly its strong point on the stage). It’s loud, corny and crude, and its familiar inconsequential cliché-ridden Hollywood story is told so poorly, the acting is so strained, the music so damn noisy and the dialogue so trite. But somehow in all the chaos, things turn better when all its obnoxious flaws are turned up to the spotlight and it strangely becomes somewhat entertaining in a cheeky sort of 1980s way– if you can dig such a mediocre pic without getting too wound up that Hollywood turns out such crap so often. It’s clumsily but energetically directed by Adam Shankman (“Hairspray”) and is based on the LA and Broadway stage musical by Chris D’Arienzo, who writes the turgid screenplay with Justin Theroux and Allan Loeb. It looms as a vanity star project for the forty-something Tom Cruise, who relishes showing of his pecs and portraying a deranged reclusive sex-crazed rocker (supposedly Axl Rose)who errs on the dark side and travels with tough body guards and his best companion is a feisty trained baboon.
In 1987 nice girl teen rocker Sherrie (Julianne Hough) leaves Tulsa, Oklahoma to find rock fame in LA as a singer and after her suitcase of valuables is robbed in the street meets on the cute nice city guy rocker Drew (Diego Boneta, first time actor from Mexico), working as a waiter at Sunset Strip’s famous rock mecca the Bourbon Room. The lovestruck Drew gets Sherrie a waitress gig in his place, and the two wannabe vanilla star rockers fall in love and then have a jealous misunderstanding separating them briefly when Drew’s band gets a chance to be the opening act for legendary rocker Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise), the unreliable lead singer of Arsenal, who will play for the last time with the band at the Bourbon before going solo. Stacee does the gig as a payback favor for getting his showbiz break from the survivalist aging hippie Bourbon owner Dennis Dupree’s (Alec Baldwin) to help him from going bankrupt and to help him fight off a campaign from a vocal citizen’s group, led by a Tipper Gore-like figure married to a politician, that equate rock with sin and want the Bourbon closed. Paul Gill (Paul Giamatti), Stacee’s oily manager, has other ideas about a freebie performance and greedily finds a way to take all the profits from Dennis.
Lonny (Russell Brand) is Dennis’s decadent, loyal and admiring sidekick sound techie; Patricia Whitmore (Catherine Zeta-Jones) is the hypocritical prim wife of the wormy mayor (Bryan Cranston), who vowed in his campaign to shut down the sinful Strip; and Justice (Mary J. Blige) is the owner of an exotic dancing club, where Sherrie works after leaving the Bourbon. There’s also a ridiculous interview scene between Stacee and Rolling Stone reporter Constance (Malin Akerman), that ends with sex on the pool table and an expose story on Stacee in RS. These nonsensical plot devices keep the film insipid, and if you’re not a fan of the music (like me) you’re out of luck and probably have to do all you can from not puking or laughing at how dumb the pic seems.
The heavy metal retro songs include tunes like “Don’t Stop Believin’ ” and “Wanted Dead or Alive,” bravely sung by the actors in lesser voices than when performed by the rock groups that created the songs. Cruise sings Foreigner’s “I Want To Know What Love Is” and in a cringe-worthy love duet Baldwin and Brand fawn over each other singing “Can’t Fight This Feeling,” and our bland lovers sing to each other in a Tower record store “Jukebox Hero.” The groups heard in the background are Def Leppard, Journey, Foreigner, Bon Jovi, REO Speedwagon, Pat Benatar, Twisted Sister, Poison and Whitesnake.
The only two reasons to find this film bearable are if you dig the music or Cruise’s cheesy over-the-top performance of faking it as a rock idol hits you in the right spot. Cruise performs writhing in black leather pants, prancing around bare chested and bod tatted, donning black nail polish and an earring, and exhorting the charm a debauched exhibitionist might exhibit if he were a thrill seeking narcissist. It’s not my kind of performance or picture or music.
REVIEWED ON 6/17/2012 GRADE: C-