In 1987 I was nearing the end of my freshman year of high school. Or just starting my sophomore year, depending on which part of the year we’re talking about. It was a time of bad fashion (that is sadly making a comeback), big hair that required lots and lots of Aqua Net, and dirt rock as well as glamor rock saturated the airwaves. Those of us that grew up in that era tend to look back on it with equal parts terror and appreciation. Terror because we’re scared pictures from that time will make their way to Facebook and appreciation because even though the music was bad, it was oh so good.
Last weekend my (and those from my generation) formative years hit theaters in the film adaption of the Broadway musical Rock of Ages. The film follows small town girl Sherri Christian(Julianne Hough), and city boy Drew Boley (Diego Boneta) as they navigate the singers and smokey rooms of Los Angeles, pursuing their dreams of singing on and on and on, while working as a waitress and bar back at the infamous (and floundering) Bourbon Room. The owner, Dennis Dupree (Alec Baldwin) is a relic in the rock and roll world and is in danger of losing his beloved saloon. Dennis and his right hand man Lonny (Russel Brand) hope to keep the joint alive by promoting a concert with mega-dirt-rock star Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise). Sister Christian and her Jukebox Hero, Drew soon find that every rose has its thorn and L.A. isn’t the paradise city they thought it was.
I’ll stop right there. I’ve squeezed in enough song titles, I think you get the drift. So yeah. When I saw the first trailer for this film, I thought “Oh dear God no.” The first trailer didn’t do the film any favors and come to think of it, neither did the other trailers. I tried to keep the faith though, because I figured if Adam Shankman could do such a great job with Hairspray, this one had to be good too right? Right?! Well this film is a mixed bag if I’ve ever seen one.
As far as the cast goes, this film has actors whose performances cover the acting spectrum. Everyone does their job, but when the film focuses on the main characters of Sherri and Drew, they lack spark. Hough and Boneta come across a bit stiff in parts, while Catherine Zeta-Jones, who plays the wife of the newly elected Mayor and self anointed sin-destroyer, is so ridiculously over the top I had a hard time watching her. Given, overcompensation is the point of her character, but it doesn’t make it any less difficult to sit through.
Alec Baldwin on the other hand was actually pretty great. However his singing….not so much. Russel Brand is just….Russel Brand. He makes me laugh and I really like him for the most part. He was perfectly cast here and I get a kick out of him signing. I still strenuously object to the use of We Built This City, but I’m willing to overlook that part. Paul Giamatti plays Stacee Jaxx’s slimy manager, Paul Gill and, I feel kind of bad for saying it, but he owned it. He’s just got that look you know? As shocking as it sounds, the best in the group was Tom Cruise as rock-god Stacee Jaxx. I know right?! I couldn’t believe it either. I remember thinking “what the hell is he doing” when he took the role, but to be honest, he was perfect. Jaxx is the stereotypical rocker, living the stereotypical lifestyle that, 10 years down the road, would make him ashamed as he watched his story unfold on an episode of Behind the Music. But Cruise came at the role like he knew something the others didn’t. He managed to walk the razors edge of serious and parody, without coming across as clownish. And he did his own singing….and it was pretty good!
As far as the rest of the film goes, I’ll be honest in saying it’s not the best. There’s a lot going on with Sherri’s move to the L.A. and hooking up with Drew after, like, 2 seconds and their quest to make it big as singers. The threat of Dennis losing the Bourbon Room. The efforts by the Mayor’s wife to shut the place down once and for all. And finally, Stacee’s realization (thanks to a candid interview with Rolling Stone reporter Constance Sack (Malin Akerman) that his lifestyle choices aren’t making him happy. It’s sort of a hodge-podge of story lines that were all thrown together to make something resembling a movie.
The film itself is pretty much just like the music and time in which it’s based. It’s terrible. It’s awesome. It’s terriblawesome. Sure, a lot of that music sucked, but for some reason loads of people loved it. I will admit to having my fair share of dirt rock on my iPod and I’m not ashamed of it. I’ll also admit to raising a fist and singing “YOU’RE MOTORING” when that part hit in the movie. I know, but the theater was relatively empty and there wasn’t anyone else around me. I will say that’s not something I normally do. The soundtrack is fun and I will say that some of the mash-ups are pretty good.
I’ll be honest and say that overall, this is a terrible film. It’s truly rubbish. But I loved it. What I would really like to see is for this film to reach the status of midnight-showing-sing-alongs. I won’t say that I would like for it to become this generation’s Rocky Horror….because that would imply that something can be as great as, or better than Rocky Horror and people my age know that’s just not possible. But….it would be fun to see it in that sort of environment with people acting out the parts and what not. I can do without the guy at the end of the row barfing though. Whether it reaches those heights or not, one thing is for certain…Rock of Ages will definitely make the Guilty Pleasures list.Tags: Adam Shankman, Alec Baldwin, Diego Boneta, dirt rock, Julianne Hough, Malin Akerman, Paul Giamatti, Rock of Ages, Rock of Ages review, Russel Brand, Tom Cruise