Thursday, July 19, 2012

Movie – Rock of Ages (2012)

Rock of Ages is a musical comedy based on the original Broadway show.  It is directed by Adam Shankman, who knows a thing or two about musical comedy – he did the musical version of Hairspray.  While Rock of Ages is no Hairspray it still is entertaining for both the music and the humor.  I would say that Rock of Ages is more closely related to movies like Across the Universe or Moulin Rouge in that the plot is constructed to use existing popular songs at appropriate times.  Where Across the Universe used Beatles songs, Rock of Ages uses songs from the 1980s.

A “small town girl” named Sherrie Christian (Julianne Hough) comes to Los Angeles and meets “city boy” Drew Boley (Diego Boneta).  She’s almost immediately robbed and Drew helps her get a job where he works at the Bourbon Club.  It’s a rundown place where musical acts come.  It’s owned by Dennis Dupree (Alec Baldwin) and managed by Lonny (Russell Brand).

Dennis and Lonny are in trouble because the taxes are coming due and there’s not enough money to pay them.  If they don’t pay, then the club will be shut down.  Luckily, Dennis gave famous rocker Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise) his first big break by letting him play the Bourbon Club.  Dennis has arranged with Stacee’s long suffering manager Paul Gill (Paul Giamatti) for Stacee’s band to play their final gig there before Stacee goes solo.

Dennis has other problems, though.  Mayor Whitmore’s (Brian Cranston) wife Patricia (Catherine Zeta Jones) has appointed herself as the arbiter for morals in the city.  She declares that rock and roll is nothing but filth and she is going to see that it is stamped out.  Her number one target is the Bourbon Club.  (Resemblances to Tipper Gore are, I’m sure, completely intentional.)

Sherrie and Drew have the expected on and off romance, filled with misunderstandings.  Hough has a little girl voice, sort of like Britney Spears, but luckily they mostly gave her ballads and softer songs to sing.  At least once, though, she had a song that could have used more power and/or growl from her and her voice just wasn’t suited for it.  Boneta did a good job with his singing.

Tom Cruise also did all his own singing.  In fact, everyone in the cast did.  Cruise reportedly took months of voice lessons and I was actually kind of impressed with the final result.  While not as good as the original singers (but then again who is) he definitely held his own on the vocal end.  Zeta Jones, of course, is a talented singer who started out in musicals before getting into movies.

Cruise’s performance as Stacee Jaxx provides a lot of the humor in the film.  He plays the character as someone who thinks he’s got all these Really Deep Thoughts About Life and Music, but really he’s just a guy who’s seriously out of touch from all the hard living and the fame.  Watching him expound on love and sex, with Cruise selling it that this man intensely believes the crap he’s saying, is quite funny.  For me, Cruise was the best thing about this movie.

I find Russell Brand kind of annoying, so if I never had to see him again in anything, I would be okay with that.  Having said that, the funniest scene in the film is a duet that Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand sing.  There are also fun cameos from Eli Roth as the director of a boy band music video, and Sebastian Bach, Debbie Gibson, Kevin Cronin, and Nuno Bettencourt as supporters of the Bourbon Club.

Also in the film is Malin Akerman as a reporter for Rolling Stone who attempts to interview Stacee Jaxx and gets caught up in his web.  Mary J. Blige plays the owner of a strip club where Sherrie ends up working.  Don’t get too excited.  Hough joins a long list of actresses in the last decade that played strippers who never actually strip (i.e. Natalie Portman, Lindsey Lohan, Jessica Alba, etc.)

The biggest complaints I have read about this film fall into four main categories.  I will condense them down for you:

1.  “I hate this movie because I hate Tom Cruise.  He’s in that Scientology religion, which is weird and makes their people sacrifice all kinds of things…..unlike my own religion which is completely rational and whose sacrifices are an understandable burden.”

2.  “I hate this movie because I hate Julianne Hough because she’s prettier than me and she caused my favorite guy to lose on that dancing show.”

3.  “I hate this movie because I hate musicals.”

4.  “I hate this movie because I hate 80’s music.”

Personally, I liked this movie.  I have never met either Cruise or Hough, and so have nothing against either one.  I don’t hate musicals.  And all the songs in this film were being played when I was in high school and college, so they were a part of my coming of age.  It was fun to relive some of them again.

My biggest complaint with the film is this:  How can you make a movie about “sex and drugs and rock and roll” and make it PG-13?  Instead we got a film about “a little sex, no drugs except the socially acceptable alcohol, and rock and roll.”  Instead of watering down the film for the Glee crowd, they should have aimed it at the people old enough to have been the characters in the film.  For anyone too young to have partied in the 80s, I’m here to tell you that it was much wilder than what they presented in this movie.

In regards to the music, they have a good range of songs from different acts, both big and small.  I hadn’t thought about Quarterflash for years.  The biggest name that I think was missing was Motley Crue.  Their songs Girls Girls Girls and Dr. Feelgood would have fit right into the plot, but those would have been more for an R rated version of the film.  The one other song-related thing that baffles me is this – why in hell name your lead character “Sherrie” and then not use the 80s song “Oh Sherrie”?  Her last name was “Christian” and they use the song Sister Christian at the beginning.  The lyrics to Oh Sherrie would have fit perfectly for Sherrie’s and Drew’s reconciliation.  The entire movie I was looking forward to hearing that song and when it didn’t have it I was disappointed.

If you are one of the people in the four groups I mentioned above then you should probably avoid this movie.  It won’t change your mind on any of those things.  For everyone else, especially those who can remember the 80s, I recommend you give this film a try.

Chip’s Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

           DVD                      Blu-ray


  1. A lot of this movie can be very annoying, but I had a good time with its musical numbers and enjoyed Tom Cruise every time he showed up on-screen. Not perfect, but still a fun movie none the less. Good review Chip.

    1. "Not perfect, but still a fun movie" - that's pretty much what a 3 star rating means from me: It's not a must see, but give it a try and maybe you'll like it.

  2. I would group myself as number 4 because I really dislike a lot of the music as I found to be too cheesy for my taste though I'll take it over today's music any day of the week. Especially today's rock music which I find to be very boring and unimaginative as I've become very disenchanted with today's music scene in general which is probably one of the reasons why I haven't been writing about music for some time.

    1. "Especially today's rock music"

      I'm going to go old fogie here: as far as I'm concerned, there are hardly any musical acts that rock now, other than ones relegated to the fringe by mainstream media. Linkin Park might be the exception, and they've been around for more than ten years. Off the top of my head, I can't think of anyone who's come along since they did.

    2. Linkin Park is nothing more than a poor man's Nine Inch Nails. We NIN fans loathe Linkin Park not just for watering down industrial music with a bit of bad hip-hop and pop but for butchering NIN's "Wish". You don't want to be caught wearing a Linkin Park shirt at a NIN show. You'd get your ass kicked.

    3. I'm not sure why anybody would be wearing another band's shirt at a different band's concert, but okay.

      Nine Inch Nails were good in their day (the 90s), but they're a bunch of old guys now (and this is coming from an old guy - I'm Reznor's age.) Reznor's now settled into a middle age of doing movie scores.

      My point wasn't to say Linkin Park were better than older rock and rollers; it was to say that current music lacks any new bands that rock. Linkin Park were the last ones to come along that I could think of off the top of my head.

      Everything is easy listening now, which at my age I suppose I should be listening to anyway. The truth is, I hardly listen to music at all anymore, other than what is in films.

    4. Actually, NIN is really just one guy. Trent Reznor. Plus, their most recent drummer is in his early 20s while everyone else ranges from their 30s-40s depending on who is in the live band at the time. Yet, NIN as a live entity is on hiatus.

      It's sad that of all of the bands you can think of was Linkin Park. Could be worse. At least you didn't say Nickelback or as I like to call them, Nickelturd.

    5. I used to listen to pretty much all music except country, so I don't have a problem with Nickleback. I just consider Nickleback to be pop, not rock. And they've been around even longer than Linkin Park.

      The thing is, that's the kind of music that gets labeled "Rock" nowadays, and its the 20, 30, even 40 year old bands that keep coming out with music that still seem to dominate the genre's awards (but just don't get played on the radio as much anymore.)