Capone's not going to take it! Despite a solid Tom Cruise performance, ROCK OF AGES wallows in mediocrity.
Hey everyone. Capone in Chicago here.
The only thing more frustrating that sitting through an overlong, cliche-driven jukebox musical is watching one that has one truly strong performance surrounded by mediocrity. Tom Cruise has forsaken all of us at one point or another over the years, but when he pulls out something inspired, I am compelled to give him credit, and I do so happily.
ROCK OF AGES is a collection of familiar '80s hard rock songs and power ballads with a plot that is a small part FOOTLOOSE and a whole lot of familiar, tired music industry stereotypes that have so little to do with actually loving this music (assuming those who go to see this movie based on a stage musical do). People give speeches about loving music and the transformative power of rock 'n' roll. They wear variations on the rock star uniform and pushing forth a very paint-by-number approach to both the acting and the music performances.
But when Tom Cruise enters the film as Stacee Jaxx, a rock band front man about to break out as a solo act, a light comes on that is undeniably bright. Sporting a look that is right out of the closet of earl Axl Rose, Jaxx is a comedy creation. We are meant to find him ridiculous when he's off stage. He and his pet monkey Hey Man are a force of sexual magnetism, even if you have to stifle a bit of laughter to see it. But when Cruise launches into song (the most memorable being Bon Jovi's "Wanted Dead or Alive"), it's tough not to be impressed, with both his singing voice and his inherent rock star persona. And for those scattered chunks of time in ROCK OF AGES , you forget that eventually Cruise will stop singing, and we'll be forced to endure the rest of this meandering, silly endeavor.
Rock of Ages isn't really about Stacee Jaxx. It's about star-crossed young singers who find each other in a Sunset Strip rock bar where Drew (Diego Boneta) works. When small town girl Sherrie Christian (Julianne Hough of the FOOTLOOSE remake) gets off the bus and lands up in the club, it isn't long before she too gets a job there, and the romance begins. Now you have to understand, just to get to this point in the plot we have endured about five or six songs from the likes of Foreigner, Night Ranger, Def Leppard, Poison, Pat Benatar, REO Speedwagon, Night Ranger, Twisted Sister, Journey, and Quarterflash (wait, what?). And very few of the actors embarrass themselves as singers (with the exception of Alec Baldwin as the club's owner; he's tone deaf). But actors like Russell Brand, Malin Akerman, and Catherine Zeta-Jones (who already exercised her ample singing chops in CHICAGO) join the ranks of Mary J. Blige (one of the actual singers in the film) to belt out this lively set of song choices, which basically boil down to either love song or anti-establishment anthem.
But the issues with this film are with its empty-headed story, in which characters emotions and common sense ebb and flow with the consistency of, well, without an consistency at all. And the song-song-song approach to this movie really cuts down on any time that might be devoted to me a shit about any of these characters. Through a stupid set of circumstances, Drew get a chance to play with his band in front of a crowd full of Jaxx fans, and Jaxx's manager (Paul Giamatti) offers him a management contract with the promise of stardom. This causes a riff between Drew and Sherrie that leads her to leave the club and begin life as a stripper in a club run by Blige, who convinces Sherrie (and no one in the audience) that being on the pole is a life of dignity and true womanhood. Okay...
Directed by Adam Shankman (who did the far superior film version of HAIRSPRAY), ROCK OF AGES feels crowded and sloppy, as if it has an open hostility toward its audience. I blame karaoke and "Glee" (episodes of which Shankman has directed) for this movie even existing. No, this is more the Shankman that gave us CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN 2 and THE PACIFIER. The jokes fall flat, the observations about the rock lifestyle seem about as believable as the idea of Malin Ackerman as an uptight, shy Rolling Stone writer doing a story on Jaxx. You know how you can tell she's a writer? She wears glasses. And naturally Jaxx turns her into his love monkey (perhaps named Hey Now).
When all is said and done, ROCK OF AGES just wants you to sing along, and that can be a whole lot of fun. But when you start burdening your movie with asinine subplot about a parental/religious group (led by Jones, playing the wife of politician Bryan Cranston) cracking down on disgusting musicians like Jaxx, you just have to endure the stupidity and wait for another familiar tune to come around. I'm certainly not knocking the music; you might even find a Def Leppard album or six in my collection. But when you're telling a rock 'n roll romance with characters featuring not an ounce rebellious spirit, you know you're in for a long tedious time at the movies. You devoted Cruise fans will be satisfied; the rest of you will be hitting some sour notes.
-- Steve Prokopy
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