- Vancouver, British Columbia - Yeah, I saw this. And I feel kind of bad for Warner Bros., since they clearly have high expectations for this film, and when I saw that they were avidly declaring how it’ll kick off the summer for WB, I wasn’t averse to seeing it; it looked entertaining enough and it was a pretty successful off-Broadway play. And I was seeing it for free, so why not? I’ll tell you why not.
Rock of Ages opens with Sherrie Christian, played by the exceptionally attractive Julianne Hough, a small town girl coming to Hollywood to make it as a singer. She starts working at a bar called the Bourbon Room that is legendary for rockers, and falls for a guy working there, Drew played by pretty boy Diego Boneta, who also wants to be a singer despite his chronic stage fright. Meanwhile the biggest act in rock, Tom Cruise…I mean, Stacee Jaxx, is set to do a performance at the Bourbon Room. He’s completely narcissistic and insane. That doesn’t stop Drew from thinking that Sherrie is having a fling with him, and he says some dumb things, and they break up, and go their separate ways, and sing some songs, and some repressed religious lady is rallying people against rock music…blah blah blah, my God haven’t we seen enough of these movies?
Okay, let’s break this down into pros and cons.
Pros: Tom Cruise is a riot. He was perfectly cast as the train-wreck human wasteland that is Tom, I mean Stacee Jaxx. I’m not even sure they gave him a script. He probably showed up to set one day, they plunked some make up on him, and gave him free reign. “Yeah, just say whatever you want Tom.” And yet I wanted more. He was the most convincing and engaging part of the film. He had the tone of the film pegged perfectly and carried it in every scene he was in.
Other pros: some of the chicks are hot. And I got a couple giggles out of the homoerotic declarations between Russell Brand and Alec Baldwin.
Well, that pretty much wraps it up for the pros. On to the cons.
The pacing in this movie is horrible. Rock of Ages clocks in at just two hours but feels like three and a half. How can a movie this recycled and done to death be so poorly written? How can something adapted from a musical with five Tony nominations be such rubbish on screen? So boo to the writing.
Casting for the two leads was infuriating. Julianne Hough isn’t too bad (on the eyes), but when she sings she has a country twang to her voice. And she’s supposed to be this hard-rock loving gal. But between her voice and her cowboy bar apparel, I would have cast her in a Hee Haw movie before this one. And as much as I appreciate that she’s a stunner, I’d really like it if the director stopped shoving that down my throat. Diego Boneta is almost totally miscast. Sure, he’s got a voice that works well enough, but this fresh faced kid is such a pretty boy that I have a hard enough time believing he’s SEEN a bar, much less worked in one. Ripped jeans? Oh yeah kid, you’re a real bad ass.
I generally really like Catherine Zeta-Jones and Alec Baldwin, but they really weren’t given enough material. All I needed from Zeta-Jones was a more satisfying interaction between her and Jaxx near the end to wrap that up for me. It can be mostly unspoken too, but six seconds really doesn’t cut it for me. And Baldwin’s contribution to almost every scene he was in was to complain about finances. He’s a talented guy; give him some material! And waxing gay with Russell Brand doesn’t count. Half the time I forget that Malin Akerman was in the movie (although…wow). And I hope Mary J. Blige got something of a paycheque for her day on set.
Many of the covers of the songs were lackluster and wasted opportunities (although Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead or Alive” is arguably better than the original). It started feeling more and more like the filmmakers were tossing the songs in just for nostalgia’s sake, and not for artistic merit. Don’t just have some stupid link to the plot; explore the themes and have the characters relate to it.
Come to think of it, this movie reminds me a lot of that Beatles’ inspired snooze-fest, Across The Universe. Both have pacing problems and unnecessary (or just plain bad) covers of great songs. BUT I will say that Across The Universe had more good covers than bad. That really wasn’t the case with Rock of Ages.
In fact, I’m not even sure who the target audience is. Hard-core rockers from the 1980s are going to hate this movie: it takes everything they really dug and commercializes the hell out of it. Today’s generation of kids might see it for the leads, but will miss almost all the references (while pretending to know them – I call this the Glee Effect). People who hated the arena rock antics of the 1980s will probably just get bored, as they never had any affinity for the subject material in the first place. The elderly will complain this movie is too loud. Anyone 12 and under will get insanely bored really quickly. Film buffs will hate how amazingly insipid the writing and directing is.
I suppose the only people who will actively enjoy it are musical enthusiasts and soccer moms who listen to flashback radio stations, simply because they enjoy any music that reminds them of their youth (even if they used to hate it). Yeah, actually, I think that’s it.
Rating: 1.5/5 Sour Grapes