Director: Adam Shankman
Cast: Julianne Hough, Diego Boneta, Russell Brand, Paul Giamatti, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Malin Akerman, Mary J. Blige, Alec Baldwin, Tom Cruise
RunTime: 2 hrs 3 mins
Rating: NC-16 (Sexual References)
Released By: Warner Bros
Official Website: www.rockofages-movie.co.uk
Opening Day: 16 August 2012
Synopsis: Under the direction of Adam Shankman (“Hairspray”), New Line Cinema’s feature film adaptation of the smash hit Broadway musical “Rock of Ages” comes to the big screen. “Rock of Ages” tells the story of small town girl Sherrie and city boy Drew, who meet on the Sunset Strip while pursuing their Hollywood dreams. Their rock ‘n’ roll romance is told through the heart-pounding hits of Def Leppard, Joan Jett, Journey, Foreigner, Bon Jovi, Night Ranger, REO Speedwagon, Pat Benatar, Twisted Sister, Poison, Whitesnake, and more.
Sex, drugs, and rock music. Directed by Adam Shankman, who did the film version of the musical Hairspray, Rock of Ages is exactly just that, under the good hands of the director with an ensemble cast going through the necessary vocal lessons in order to convince you that they can sing, strum and bring the house down. An adaptation of the 2006 Broadway musical of the same name, reaction to the musical film has been quite mixed, considering that rock fans may be offended with the new treatment of classic anthems, although the film doesn't take itself too seriously. The novelty factor is also present, considering the multitude of stars who turned up to give their vocal chords an exercise, and hamming it up as rock star wannabes.
The story itself isn't quite the highlight, given some close narrative parallels such as having an expression of the arts being celebrated by some, and frowned upon by conservative others, bringing about an expected head on clash. With Julianne Hough as one of the main leads, this may seem like a spiritual companion piece to her other starring role in Footloose, where dance got frowned upon, but still much alive amongst those who dare defy convention. Here, Rock the music genre is under attack by the mayor's wife Patricia Whitmore (Catherine Zeta-Jones), who has a personal vendetta to settle, as well as a political one as a platform on which her adulterous husband Mike (Bryan Cranston) the mayor can campaign on.
And the main draw here, without a doubt, is Tom Cruise. For some time he has been taking on smaller roles in comedies, hiding behind thick disguise in order to have fun, but yet not damage the persona that is, well, Tom Cruise. His turn as Austin Powers, and Les Grossman especially, stood out as satirical, and comical, and so does his Stacee Jaxx here, a rock god worshipped by many, but a jaded one with an alcoholic addiction, and is sex personified. Tom Cruise had boldly gone where he hasn't gone before in film (karaoke sessions in Top Gun does not count) with singing in this musical, with the help of vocal lessons to varying degrees of success, and is in a role that had him grope every single female character that Stacey Jaxx comes into contact with. Julianne Hough, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Malin Akerman. All felt up. Damn. And to think Stacee Jaxx has a mojo problem, creatively in his music that is.
Tom as Stacee single-handedly steals all thunder each time he appears on screen, which is just fine, considering how arresting Stacee Jaxx's presence is whenever he steps into a room, whether he's sober, or making sense, if at all. The film god has become the rock god in the film, and despite being limited in screen time, was a lot more charismatic and easily overshadowed the main storyline of a love story between small town girl Sherrie Christian (Julianne Hough) and big city boy Drew Boley (Diego Boneta), who works at the legendary Bourbon Room, owned by Dennis Dupree (Alec Baldwin) together with his assistant Lonny (Russell Brand), a place where stars make their big break, including Jaxx.
The love story is at best a bland one, with the usual montage of falling in, and then out of love, before each character depart from Bourbon Room, one into the world of exotic dancing under the mentorship of Justice Charlier (Mary J. Blige), with the other betraying his rock roots for instant success, and what would be a swipe at the wishy-washy bubblegum Pop genre, under the advice of Stacee's shady manager Paul Gill (Paul Giamatti), directly contrasting how rock, with tunes and lyrics from the heart, would at anytime trounce the manufactured ways of pop. The other narrative track deals with Dennis and Lonny trying to keep the Bourbon room afloat given the antics of Stacee Jaxx, his scheming manager Paul, attacks from political fronts and knocks on the door from the IRS. It would not be as interesting if not for a neat little surprise that would, if this was made in the past, would not have survived the local censors.
Let's not forget about the songs themselves. Those who have grown up through the 80s and 90s will likely be having a blast at identifying all the songs that made it to the film, despite at times having some of the actors mangle them through their less than stellar delivery. From the likes of Journey to Bon Jovi and Def Leppard, what stood out and became a treat, was how the filmmakers and musicians involved in the soundtrack for the film, managed to mash them up together into medleys and duets that not only sounded right, but provided for the moving of the narrative forward. It's not just a careless splash of songs here and there, but had much thought going into the process to ensure they all blend, and work well for the portions of the film they appear in.
(Rock Comes Alive!)
Review by Stefan Shih