Review: Rock of Ages

If you’re a child of the 80s and fondly remember the era of poofy hair, eyeliner and a time when MTV actually played music videos, Rock of Ages will no doubt tug at your nostalgic chords as you watch some of Hollywood’s biggest stars singing along to Bon Jovi, Journey and Twisted Sister.

But for all the big names, expertly choreographed song and dance numbers and embarrassingly familiar fashion, there’s little more to Rock of Ages than a glorified karaoke night that hardly warrants putting your lighters up.

The film — an adaptation of Chris D’Arienzo’s 2006 Broadway musical — largely focuses on Drew (Diego Boneta, 90210) and Sherrie (Julianne Hough, Footloose), two crazy kids with hopes of becoming famous singers like the ones they’ve grown up idolizing. The ultimate goal for the two is to be the headliners at The Bourbon Room, a popular bar/club where stars are made and dreams are realized.

D’Arienzo is one of three credited screenwriters (along with Tropic Thunder’s Justin Theroux and Allan Loeb) so his vision for the film version, which is significantly different than the play, may have gotten somewhat distorted. There’s an occasional good line — normally some off-handed lyric to another 80s song — but the script is too scattered trying to give enough time to too many characters allowing us to care about none of them and the film seems more an exercise of getting from one song to the next.

At least the songs are fun. Director Adam Shankman works the same magic he did in the entertaining Hairspray, so the song/dance numbers are lively and energetic and the one point where the actors let themselves go and embrace the spectacle.

If that’s all you’re looking for with Rock of Ages, you’ll be satisfied. The actors range from passable to good so they’re not going to make you stop liking Waiting for a Girl Like You.

The novelty and most heavily-promoted aspect of Rock of Ages is Tom Cruise’s Stacee Jaxx — a boozing and partying megastar disillusioned with all of life’s decadence from loose women to stammering yes men. He’s burned so many bridges that his best friend is a baboon called Hey Man.

Yes it’s insane, but Cruise the chameleon gets lost in another role. He’s instantly familiar to anyone who’s watched rockers perform both on and off stage, yet Cruise makes Jaxx more than just a parody of strung-out singers.

Cruise doesn’t have the vocal chops to release his own album anytime soon, but he so fearlessly approaches the role that it doesn’t matter if he has The Voice. Cruise is clearly the film’s headline act and similar to his Tropic Thunder role, he has you at the edge of your seat wondering what he’s going to say and do next in a tremendously entertaining performance.

Shame most of his backups aren’t fit to share the stage with him.

Catherine Zeta-Jones provides a fun, full peacock-strutting performance as the mayor’s wife bent on shutting down rock, starting with The Bourbon Room but she’s the only other one who rises to the challenge to make her character unique.

Alec Baldwin plays Alec Baldwin in a bad wig, Russell Brand gives a watered down version of his Aldous Snow character from Get Him to the Greek and Paul Giamatti plays the standard sleazy Paul Giamatti role in this case as Stacee’s manager.

Five years from now, Cruise is likely to be the only part of Rock of Ages you’ll remember and it’s not just because he’s the A-lister. He’s just the only one who seizes the moment to be a true rock star.

Rating: 4 out of 10

Photo Credit: David James/Warner Bros. Pictures

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