Rock of Ages – 2012

Directed by Adam Shankman
Starring Julianne Hough, Diego Bonita, Russell Brand, Paul Giamatti, Alec Baldwin, Tom Cruise, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Bryan Cranston, Malin Akerman, Mary J. Blige
Screenplay by Justin Thoroux,  Chris D’Arienzo, Allan Loeb

“What’s it like to be THE Stacie Jaxx?”

And do we care?

Time for nonsense of a different sort.  Rock of Ages is the kind of film that you put in the Blu Ray player when your 13-year-old girl wants to have a few friends for a sleepover.  That is, if you think they can survive the first scene with Tom Cruise.  Watching it with my wife, the feeling was that I was sitting next to her as a teenager, answering her guesses of who did the original versions, song after song.  She was perplexed each time a Foreigner song came on, I had to reassure her, it was indeed them.  Every time a Poison song came on, she would announce it with pride.  Somewhere in there, is a story that no one cares about, and everyone can loosely relate to.

There are embarrassing moments aplenty, like anytime we see Zeta-Jones sing, dance, act, or that time that Akerman and Cruise get after each other during “I Want to Know What Love Is,” and yes, that was another Foreigner song.  No one really cares though.  This movie was not made for today, it was made to represent anyone who lived through 1987.

Watching this film, I discovered how “Don’t Stop Believin'” was written, and it wasn’t written by Journey,   Somehow, 8 years after it appeared on record, it was inspired by the first vision that Drew Boley (Boneta) has of Sherrie Christian (Hough).  This is par for the course, however, in the world of musicals.

For me, the real treat is seeing Giamatti with horrible hair as the manager of Arsenal, the band that Cruise’s Stacie Jaxx is about to leave for a solo career.  The first scene, as he walks past a baboon with a gun, is worth the price of admission.  His character is a pure, sleazy delight.

In his shadow are the comic ramblings of Brand and Baldwin in horrible wigs.  I did not know how to feel when I saw Brand apply hair spray to his.  To be honest, I felt a bit like throwing up.  The looks they give each other are awkward, and obvious.  Cranston and Zeta-Jones performance is telegraphed using the most ancient of equipment.

Back to my wife and me, the only time we were both stumped was with the Quarterflash song.  I even own it, but I could not get The Motels out of my brain.  It only took my mention of the lead singer for her to get “Here I Go Again,” though.  Never really thought of that one as a sing along, but it works for what it is.  I never thought of REO Speedwagon’s “Can’t Fight This Feeling,” as a gay anthem either, although I always thought Kevin Cronin was kind of effeminate.

Mary J. Blige adds some heft to the musical, both with that wonderful voice and her solid acting.  I could watch her and Giamatti all day.  Seeing Constantine Maroulis even in a cameo was too much.

If you have the extra x chromosome and were raised in the ’80’s or later this movie is worth a spin.  If you wear steel tipped boots at work, just find something to build in the garage for the night.  My wife and I enjoyed the music, grimaced at the acting and just smiled for a couple of hours.  Nothing wrong with that.  Even if she thought every third song was Poison and Pat Benatar.  Or maybe because of it.

(*** out of *****)


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