Rock of Ages (2012) Directed by Adam Shankman
Drew: Can’t we just go back to the way it was?
Sherrie: No!...I’m, I’m a stripper!
Drew: [with a self-deprecating shrug] And I’m in a Boy Band.
Sherrie: …..Okay. You win.
Sherrie Christian (Julianne Hough) is just a small town girl, living in a lonely world….she climbs off the bus from Oklahoma, and promptly has her suitcase full of records stolen. This is seen by Drew Boley (Diego Boneta), just a small town boy, born and raised in South Detroit, and now working as bar back at the Bourbon Room; THE club on the Sunset Strip. Drew goes to her rescue, and gets her a job at the Bourbon Room, making her part of the happily dysfunctional rock-and-roll family. Daddy is Dennis Dupree (Alec Baldwin) owner of the bar, and proof that while you might have to grow older, as long as you have rock and roll in your heart, you can be immature forever. Lonny (Russell Brand) is his right hand man, and surrogate son in a family with very poor boundaries. Dude can also seriously sing.
The Bourbon Room has problems; Hard Rock was on the way…well, not out, but not grabbing the big share. There are taxes to pay, and politicians wanting to get elected by making Rock and Roll the enemy to be defeated: classic “I will protect you from this threat I invented” politics. This particular mayoral candidate, Mike Whitmore (Bryan Cranston) is joined by his even more zealous wife, Patricia (Catherine Zeta-Jones). Her hard on against the Bourbon Room, and even more particularly one of the stars who got his start there, is bordering on the psychotic.
Against this back drop, add in Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise) ageing Rock God. A concert at the Bourbon Room is hopefully Dennis’ salvation. But salvation is always opposed by a serpent, and there is no one more reptilian than Jaxx’s agent, Paul Gill (Paul Giamatti).
Now, take this cast, add naughty librarianesque Rolling Stone journalist Constance Sack (Malin Akerman) as a possible love interest for the jaded super star, and mix with a boy meets girl, boy looses girl, boy and girl find each other again story, and a really b*tching sound track*, and you have a possible winner….
*The B*tching Sound Track: Paradise City, Sister Christian, Just Like Paradise, Nothing But a Good Time, Juke Box Hero, I Love Rock and Roll, Hit Me with Your Best Shot, Waiting for a Girl Like You, More Than Words, Heaven, Wanted Dead or Alive, I Wanna Know What Love Is, I Wanna Rock, Pour Some Sugar on Me, I’m Gonna Harden My Heart, Shadows of the Night, Here I Go Again, I Can’t Fight This Feeling Any More (easily my favorite number of the movie!), Any Way You Want It, Under Cover Love, Every Rose Has It’s Thorn, Rock You Like A Hurricane, and a wonderful rendition of We Built this City and We’re Not Going To Take It, at the same time, and Don’t Stop Believing.
Like most Rock Opera, this tends not to take itself too seriously, but there are some performances that more tongue in cheek than others. Catherine Zeta-Jones’ tongue is so far in cheek, it is likely to come out her ear. On the other hand, Tom Cruise, who’s Stacee Jaxx is every rock star who was ever too drunk to take the stage, is played with an intensity and seriousness totally at odds with camp. While his tongue might be in cheek, it’s never his cheek. Seriously; Tom Cruise nailed the drug addled rock god perfectly. An amazing, sweaty, tattooed performance.
Adam Baldwin and Russell Brand nailed their roles both, and made you love them. Paul Giamatti did just as well, making sure you hated his unctuous little self. And Mary J. Blige was surprisingly sympathetic as the House Mother of a strip club.
Add to this the loving attention to detail of the period; the hair styles…the, can we call it fashion? The cell phone the size of a brick. Remember how cool we thought those were, and how much we envied those filthy rich enough to afford them?
Finally, the element that makes this work is the shameless exuberance with which they attack the whole shebang; for being a hot-blooded latino, Diego Boneta comes across as hopelessly white bread; Julianne Hough sings with the same Kewpie-doll sweetness and little girl voice that made Aqua’s Barbie Girl so enjoyable. Yet the way they rock those feathered bangs and tattered jeans, they win you over, and you want them to work it out. And I think that’s the key to the whole thing right there.
Oh, it’s not deathless cinema; as a musical, it’s not competing in the same league as Rocky Horror and Hair, but it’s sweet, it’s sincere, and it doesn’t think it’s anything more than it is. And that makes it worth watching.
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Movie Mood: Feel-good Movie
Viewing Method: Sneak Preview at My Local Theater
Film Completeness: Looked complete to me.