Thursday, June 14, 2012
Review of ROCK OF AGES (2012)
- Rated PG-13 for sexual content, suggestive dancing, some heavy drinking and language.
- Starring Julianne Hough, Diego Boneta, Tom Cruise, Malin Akerman, Alex Baldwin, Russell Brand, Paul Giamatti, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Bryan Cranston, Mary J. Blige, Will Forte, TJ Miller
- Screenplay by Justin Theroux, Chris D'Arienzo, Allan Loeb (Based on the play by Chris D'Arienzo)
- Directed by Adam Shankman
- Running time: 2hrs 3min.
What was I doing in 1987 (the year this movie takes place)? Hmmm. I was 11 years old, watching all the bad action films starring Chuck Norris and Stallone that I could find. I listened to the popular radio station at the time, which is way different than popular radio now. You see, they actually played good music back then. Sure, it's cheesy, but I loved Def Leppard, Guns N' Roses and Bon Jovi.
Based on the hit Broadway musical (which I have not seen and knew next to nothing about), ROCK OF AGES is about a country girl named Sherrie who has the dream to become a famous singer in L.A. Wet behind the ears, before the first song is over, she loses all of her belongings as she arrives in Hollywood. Drew, a handsome bar back at the famous Bourbon rock club (who also wants to become a rock star), comes to her rescue. He gets her a job as a waitress there and before you can say "80's love ballad", they fall for each other. Also in the mix is the owner of the club played by Alec Baldwin and his partner in crime, Lonny (Brand). The club is being protested by the Mayor's wife (Zeta-Jones), who leads a group of church goers against rock and roll to try and close the club down. Superstar rocker Stacee Jaxx (Cruise) is going to perform at the Bourbon to try and boost it's revenue to save the club, but his shady manager (Giamatti) has other plans. There's also a subplot involving a reporter (Ackerman) and Jaxx as she interviews him for Rolling Stone magazine.
Let me get this off my chest right now. I LOVE MUSICALS!!! I love em! I loved Shankman's musical version of HAIRSPRAY, and this is just as fun! I love cheesy 80's songs and putting them in a cheesy, energetic musical earns mega points from me. Now, I figure this movie is going to annoy the shit out of many, many moviegoers. It's about as subtle as freight train. It starts with a joyous rendition of Sister Christian with everyone on Sherrie's bus singing along. It's stupid, ridiculous and idiotic, but super duper infectious. At least for me. Me and my 8 year old were singing along to every song, which doesn't use original songs, but incorporates 80's classics into the storyline.
The story? Well, it's just an excuse so famous actors can sing karaoke. And it's enormous fun. This isn't good storytelling, but it's a marvelous musical. The plot is a standard "boy meets girl" scenario, and it's fine. It's as predictable as mac and cheese, but I didn't mind. I didn't want a unique indie dramedy, I wanted a cheesy 80's musical, and that's exactly what I got. Every song that came up thrilled me. I was always wondering which song would be next. Several numbers mix certain songs together like Extreme's "More than Words" and Warrant's "Heaven" with much success.
The actors are clearly having a wonderful time here. I'm not really a big fan of Julianne Hough, but to deny her charisma here would be unfair. Sure, she's got an unnatural fake baked look to her, but it fits the late 80's glam style. She may over-sing a few songs, but her voice has undeniable power. Her love interest Diego Boneta may be a little too clean looking for me, but it fits the cheesiness of the film. Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand provide many of the film's laughs, including a show-stopping rendition of "Can't Fight this Feeling". Catherine Zeta-Jones is just a riot as the prudish crusader trying to end rock n roll, and her "Hit Me with your Best Shot" is fantastic! She goes beyond over-the-top here and it's a blast to watch. Paul Giamatti is deliciously evil and also briefly shows off his impressive tenor voice. But it's Tom Cruise who owns this movie. His Stacee Jaxx is absolutely terrific. He completely becomes this burnt out rocker who forgot the meaning of rock n roll. His eccentric touches (like walking around with a monkey named "Hey Man"), and fondling boobies just make him all the more sleazy. Speaking of sleazy, his introduction with him rising from a pile of naked chicks on his bed was epic. It's such an outrageous, "out there" performance it could only be done by a fearless actor. And guess what? That man can sing! He has a great presence. Cruise is such a committed actor, that I'm convinced he can do just about anything. He's one actor that hasn't let the bad press get to him, he is still giving 100%. Also, his duet with Malin Ackerman (who's quite good) is one of my favorite sequences as they fondle each other while belting out "I want to know what love is". It's laugh out loud funny!
Not only is this a great musical, it's a pretty darn good comedy. I laughed a heck of a lot more than I thought I would. The movie has it's tongue through it's cheek (as opposed to just tongue-in-cheek). It knows how stupid it is, and embraces it. Musicals are dumb. No one sings out of the blue like this. They exist in completely different universes than real ones. That's why I think I love them so much. It's movie magic where everyone can sing the way they feel. People who hate musicals are going to loathe this film. And if you don't like this type of music, you're going to hate it even more.
This movie is loud, obnoxious, and just doesn't stop. The energy is on an ultra high level and could cause migraines for those not ready for it. So, be ready for many negative reviews for this. This isn't for everyone. Many people will hate this movie. But I was looking for a cheesy movie that I could sing along with and I got it. I even got several laughs in too. I already have the soundtrack. In fact, I am listening to it right now as I write this review. ROCK OF AGES isn't full of great nuances or anything meaningful. It's just one hell of a good time. I had a sloppy cheesy smile the entirety of it's rockin' running time. If you've seen the trailer, then you'll know if it's for you or not. If you think it looks stupid, you have no business seeing it. If you think it looks like a cheesy good time, you'll love it! It's definitely the most fun I've had all summer at the movies.
***1/2 (out of ****)