Barrett’s Review: ‘Rock of Ages’ is an Entertaining Spectacle, But Cheesy Clichés Become TiresomeBy
With our summer movie appetites being mostly comprised of gigantic 3D blockbusters and racous comedies thus far, Rock of Ages is a nice breath of fresh air. That being, it’s a movie musical, which in and of itself sets it apart from what we’ve been seeing on the big screen. The music and dance numbers are very well done, featuring all the big rock songs from the 80′s that we all know and love. But it’s not on the level of other musical adaptations, ala Chicago, that will go on to be a major player during awards season and be long-remembered. As alluded to in the title of this review, some of the innate cheesiness of such uncompromising hope and optimism of “big dreamers” trying to make it in rock n’ roll, will evoke eye-rolls and and fatigued sighs. But it’s not a terrible thing to behold.
First and foremost, the cast is awesome…for the most part. Director Adam Shankman brought together some of the best and brightest talent to comprise his cast to tell this story of love and music. Let’s go down the list, shall we? Alec Baldwin, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Paul Giamatti, Russell Brand, Malin Akerman and of course, Mr. Tom Cruise. That alone is worth at least one viewing. And the film’s bubbly lead (Dancing with the Stars’ Julianne Hough as Sherrie) stands up there with the big boys and holds her own. She’s obviously super hot, a great dancer and seemingly singer, but I was impressed by her convincing acting performance.
The one detracting performance for me comes via her love interest, Drew, played by Diego Boneta. I’ve never heard of this dude before this film, and while his acting is credible and services the role, I honestly just found him to be really irritating. For a character that is so pure and manufactured for us to root for, I just didn’t. He’s supposed to be this sweet boy working at the “legendary” Bourbon Room in Los Angeles, with dreams of becoming a rock God, but there’s one problem: he can’t sing in front of people. I wonder if, through the love he develops with Sherrie, he’ll learn to harness his fear of singing in front of people to…actually sing in front of people. SPOILER ALERT: he does. While that’s not a specific critique of his actual acting and overall performance, the way he delivered this character just didn’t do it for me. He also looks like he’s 12, not helping his credibility as a potential rock God.
Tom Cruise’s performance as the iconic Stacee Jaxx is by far the scene-stealing gem of this film. Cruise just morphs his appearance and mannerisms to perfectly portray a drug and sex-addled star, with amazing chameleon-like ability. He’s also unbelievably cut for a man of 50. He’s straight-up jacked. Which is probably why he never wears a shirt in the film. I don’t think Tom Cruise actually ages.
Back to the story. While I obviously understand this film is as fluffy and cookie-cutter as it gets, in terms of story, it is still sometimes cringing to see the development play out:
- Boy meets girl.
- Boy falls in love with girl.
- Boy mistakenly thinks girl is two-timing him.
- Boy disses girl in favor of fame.
- Boy realizes error of his ways.
- Boy tries to make everything right again.
- It all works out?
A musical inherently usually follows a similar formula, and I wasn’t expecting anything more from Rock of Ages. But the eye-brow raising cheesiness that facilitates this story is laughable at some points.
For instance, Sherrie is a “small town girl, living in a lonely world…and takes the midnight train goin’ anywhere”…well, LA in this case. When she arrives in the City of Angels, her first stop is outside the focal point location of the movie, The Bourbon Room. The streets are filled with Patricia Whitmore’s (Zeta-Jones) army of feminist protestors. She’s standing on the street corner with all her posessions in the suitcase she’s carrying, and, as an nod to “she’s obviously not in Kansas anywhere” her shit gets jacked by a random thug. Drew miracously sees this happening amongst the hundreds of people outside, runs across the street to chase the bag-snatcher, but is unsuccessful in being super heroic and romantic. He actually didn’t even chase after the dude, even though he was a hundred feet away. Should probs try to actually chase down the bro, Drew. I digress. With a brief introduction, Sherrie prolcaims that her entire life was in that suitcase, and Drew immediately inquires “hey, you need a job?” Literally within seconds of meeting her. So again, while Rock of Ages, and musicals in general will feature such ridicuouls plot points, there were many of these cheesy instances throughout the film that became extremely tiresome.
Overall, Rock of Ages, is, again, an impressive feast for the eyes and ears, but doesn’t stand up as a movie musical that will stay with you.
What Should You Do? Wait for DVD.