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Movie Review: Rock of Ages

June 15, 2012
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Rock of Ages tells the story of a Sherrie (Julianne Hough), a sweet girl from Oklahoma who lands on the Sunset Strip seeking fame and fortune as a singer. Her naïve enthusiasm is quickly squelched when her suitcase is stolen mere minutes after she steps off the bus. Drew (Diego Boneta) is a kindly bar back who witnesses the incident and comes to Sherrie’s aid and convinces his boss (Alec Baldwin) to give her a job waitressing in the bar. The two of them start making googly eyes at one another from the get go, and soon they are in love. Meanwhile the bar owner and his assistant (Russell Brand) are nervously awaiting a concert by rock-god Stacee Jaxx to raise money for their mounting debt. That, my friends, is the whole plot.

This being a musical, a flimsy premise doesn’t kill the movie. The songs are all covers of 80s hair churned through a Glee-like sanitization. Even though I never was a fan of most of the acts (Def Leppard, Journey, Poison, Bon Jovi, Joan Jett to name a few) I found the songs wildly infectious and impossible not to enjoy. I’m the generation this film is targeted to.  Several of the songs are cleverly worked into the story and dialogue. Most of the singers are decent, especially Tom Cruise as Stacee Jaxx, which I found very surprising. It’s even fun to watch Baldwin and Paul Giamatti try to warble a few lines.

Hough is adorable, but I do wish that she had a stronger voice. She’s sounds too much like a Britney Spears to be in a rock movie. It never worked for me. Every time she sang (which is often) I found myself cringing. She seemed to be the weakest link, though I enjoyed her performance when she wasn’t singing. Giamatti is great as Stacee Jaxx’s slimy manager sporting an obnoxious ponytail comprised of a few wispy strands of hair. Boneta is rather bland as Drew, but he’s a decent singer. Baldwin and Russell make a hilarious team, and Catherine Zeta Jones shines as the mayor’s wife who is obsessed with shutting the bar down.

Though it pains me greatly to say this, Cruise is the best thing in the movie.  His portrayal of Stacee Jaxx as a narcissistic composite of past rock stars is spot on in many ways. He thinks he is deep and insightful, but he is just an idiot surrounded by yes men (probably not far off from the real Cruise).  His attire is ridiculous-a bejeweled codpiece, fur coats, a bandana, jewelry and assless chaps all make an appearance. It’s a great parody of rock “stars”.

Rock of Ages is an adaptation of the popular Broadway show, and it feels a lot more like a musical than a movie, so temper your expectations accordingly. Your enjoyment of the movie is going to depend on your nostalgia toward the music of the 80’s. If all the songs were original, I don’t think I would have enjoyed it at all. It’s the familiarity that makes it such a blast.

Rating 3.5/5

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