A film review by Craig J. Koban June 20, 2012
ROCK OF AGES
2012, PG-13, 124 mins.
2012, PG-13, 124 mins.
Stacee Jaxx: Tom Cruise / Drew: Diego Boneta
/ Sherrie: Julianne Hough / Dennis Dupree: Alec Baldwin / Patricia:
Catherine Zeta-Jones / Constance: Malin Akerman / Lonny:
Russell Brand / Paul: Paul Giamatti / Justice: Mary J. Blige
OF AGES scores absolutely zero points for being a pioneering silver screen
musical. But it most
certainly does something that so many recent films haven’t: it made me
smile…a lot…all through its running time.
its central storyline and themes are fairly prosaic seems almost
inevitable, but where ROCK OF AGES really shines is in its boundless and
exuberant energy, its undeniable sense of lewd good fun, and the sheer
delight it has with skewering and honoring the big haired, neon-toned, and
cheerfully tacky excessiveness of 1980’s rock. It features a relatively who’s who of period specific songs
from the likes of Bon Jovi, Guns N’ Roses, Def Leppard, Foreigner,
Journey, Poison, Whitesnake, Twisted Sister, REO Speedwagon…and…I’m
sorry if I forgot anyone. Fans
of those groups will be in a head-banging state of nirvana and others will
most likely be having just as much of a toe tapping and fist pumping good
time. There is very little not to like in ROCK OF AGES.
big, broad, zesty, and intentionally over-the-top film is based on the
rock/jukebox musical of the same name by Chris D’Arienzo, which was a
smash when it appeared in Los Angeles in 2005 before moving on to
Broadway. The musical – and
film adaptation – is based ostensibly around the public’s fondness for
classic rock and glam metal bands of the 80’s and the cultural era’s
overall sense of reckless and promiscuous abandon.
I have heard some argue that ROCK OF AGES is too wall-to-wall with
songs, but the whole point of the film is to bathe in the excesses of the
synthesized music blasting at full ear-splitting volume levels and to
wallow in its spunky vitality. The
film is arguably at its weakest when its stars are not belting out covers
of long cherished rock hits, so the more they are the better.
plot of the film is pure cornball through and through, but it’s
affectionately and digestibly corny.
It’s 1987 and a fresh-faced and wide-eyed wanna-be singer and pop
star Sherrie Christian (the unbelievably easy-on-the eyes Julianne Hough
from the recent FOOTLOOSE remake) has just arrived in town to make her
proverbial dreams come true. All
she has is a few bucks, a small record collection of her favorites, and a
dream. Her aspirations of
stardom are dashed rather quickly when she is mugged minutes after getting
off her bus, but she has a meet-cute soon in its aftermath with Drew Boley
(Diego Boneta), a down on his luck busboy that also dreams of being a rock
just happens to work at the Sunest Strip’s legendary Bourbon Room, a
club that has spent its existence launching the career of rock icons.
It's run and managed by Dennis Dupree (a delightfully screwball Alec
Baldwin) alongside his loyal right hand man, Lonny Barnett (the spirited
and droll Russell Brand). Since
Sherrie is borderline penniless, Drew convinces Dennis to take her on as a
waitress in order for her to begin her stay in California on the right
note with a job and a hope for the future.
This also allows for Sherrie and Drew to get closer to one another;
she shares with him her yearnings to be a star and he, in turn, confides
in her his wishes to launch his rock band, Wolfgang Von Colt, but only if
her can get over his stage fright.
Dennis and the Bourbon are in trouble.
The club is facing ample financial pressure from the IRS over an
escalating unpaid tax debt, which Dennis hopes will be paid off with the
profits he’ll make from a visit and performance by Stacee Jaxx (Tom
Cruise), a world famous rock god that has just recently announced his
split from the group Arsenal. Along
with his manager (Paul Giamatti), Jaxx has agreed to perform with
Arsenol for one last time at the Bourbon.
This peaks the interest of Patricia Whitmore (a deliriously zany
Catherine Zeta Jones), an ultra conservative religious nutbar who is
working in conjunction with her mayor husband (Bryan Cranston) to forever rid the
valley of the sinful extremes of rock.
Predictably, complications ensue for all parties.
AGES has been garnering considerable press for the casting of Tom Cruise
as the jaded, narcissistic, alcoholic, groupie-obsessed, devil and monkey
loving, and disbelievingly crazed rock legend that is Jaxx.
Cruise has been going under some career rejuvenation as of late;
his hilariously inspired turn in TROPIC
THUNDER as the unbilled Hollywood mogul that didn’t use a four
or twelve letting expletive that he never loved was the uproarious comic
performance of 2008. Justin
Theroux co-wrote that film and also co-wrote ROCK OF AGES, which gives
Cruise yet another opportunity to absurdly overplay a farcical character
while, at the same time, giving the audience a sly wink that (a) he’s a
rousing good sport in on the gag and (b) he’s not too full of himself to
have fun with mocking his very image as a mega celebrity.
Jaxx is a real piece of work; think of him as the love child of Axel Rose
and Jim Morrison and you’ll get the idea.
Adorned in buttless leather chaps, greasy hair, a hauntingly glazed
expression, tattoos of two pistols on his abs that strategically point to
his other – ahem – gun, and a gemstone-encrusted cod piece that
features Satan himself, Jaxx is the proverbial inebriated and socially
reckless rock star that throws caution to the wind, mostly because he has
no idea where he’s throwing it. Cruise
turns 50 very soon, which usually typifies a period when veteran actors
tend to wind down; his intensely focused comic turn as Jaxx proves that he
has not even begun to pull out all of the tricks from his thespian
Cruise sing? The answer is a
resounding yes. He has a more
than adequate vocal range when he blares out a haunting rendition of
"Wanted Dead or Alive" and even has more perverse fun later in the
film where he seduces book-wormy Rolling Stones reporter named – ahem
– Constance Sack (the alluring Malin Akerman) by tapping into her inner
sex kitten. Ackerman and
Cruise are a free-wheeling, uninhibited, and erotically charged hoot doing
a duet of "I Want To Know What Love Is" by serenading their
respective scantily clad body parts.
I defy anyone to name one other film where Cruise has sung directly to a woman’s
film is wall-to-wall with other memorably vivacious numbers.
I especially liked the borderline animalistic take of Pat Benatar’s
"Hit Me With Your Best Shot" that Zeta-Jones’ Whitmore
– along with a legion of concerned Christian mothers – lets loose (Benatar's
lyrics have never come off as so…oddly sultry).
Zeta-Jones also leads an impulsively wild version of Twisted
Sister’s "We’re Not Gonna Take It" while protesting in front of
the Bourbon, during which Lonny and his fellow headbangers – at the same
time - respond with "We Built This City".
Julianne Hough – as she has demonstrated with FOOTLOOSE – has a
face that I could stare at for hours upon hours and has some nice,
easy-going, and low-key chemistry with Boneta while they team up on some
classic songs. Hell, even
Baldwin and Brand get their own moment in the spotlight when they partake
in perhaps the most memorable version of "Cant Fight This Feeling"
like…ever. Trust me.