“Rock of Ages” is the new musical comedy extravaganza from “Hairspray” director and “Chicago” choreographer Adam Shankman. Though the trailer definitely looked suspect, I’m a fan of both of his previous films, and so I held out hope that “Rock of Ages” would be worth the time. It wasn’t.
The film features an all-star cast that includes Tom Cruise, Alec Baldwin, Catherine Zeta-Jones, MaryJ. Blige and Russell Brand, all of whom—throughout the movie—shake their big hair and writhe snakeskin covered hips to the classic rock hits.
Sometimes the hits are arranged as a mashup (like Jukebox Love/I Love Rock & Roll), or sometimes star Julianne Hough or newcomer Diego Boneta simply belt out the time-worn ballads. It’s apparent that serious efforts were taken to update and enliven hair rock of the late 80’s. Unfortunately it was not successful.
Hough stars as fresh-faced, recent L.A. transplant Sherri hoping to make it big in the City of Angels.
She falls in line with the hard rocking crew at famed Sunset Strip bar, “The Bourbon” where Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand, who shoot off one-liners, guiding younger generations of rockers, and defending their hard partying, eardrum splitting ways, act as proprietors of the establishment.
Among the efforts to update the material and imbue a sense of self-awareness, Baldwin and Brand are eventually led to declare their love for one another.
I thought that twist was actually quite funny, and both actors deliver their lines well—however, I just couldn’t get over how upset “Jack Donaghy” would be at Baldwin’s ragged long locks.
The star of The Bourbon is “rock god” Stacy Jaxx (Tom Cruise). I will admit that a personal distaste for Cruise (he’s just so creepy!) certainly colored my opinion of the film.
And I wasn’t wrong, Cruise is certainly in all his creepy glory in this film—half naked, sexed out, always drunk, and with a cracked-out kind of intensity that was very off-putting.
Catherine Zeta-Jones plays his one-time hook up and now current nemesis, as she attempts to shut down The Bourbon and everything it stands for. Though normally very good, she also hit a weird, over-the-top kind of intensity that just didn’t work.
Sherri has her ups and downs—falls in love, gets betrayed, has a weird sojourn at a strip club run by Mary J. Blige—and ultimately returns triumphantly to the Bourbon to live out her dreams on stage.
My advice is to avoid this studio-manufactured gimmick.
You’d probably have more fun going out to a bar and waiting till the inevitable moment at the end of the night when the DJ plays “Don’t Stop Believing” and everyone belts their hearts out.
Overall Grade: D+
“Rock of Ages” opens today in movie theaters everywhere, click here for theaters and showtimes.