Rock of Ages Review
I’ve got to admit, I am a sucker for the 80’s. Everything about it; the shows, the food, the movies, and the music. Nothing was better than driving along in a car, with Whitesnake, Bon Jovi or a full pelt power ballad at full blast, despite the looks of disdain and laughter from the kids of the 00/10’s. It was those bits of rock and roll that I could listen to over and over, and still do so on a daily basis with many other children of the 80’s.
Now, after the success of Rock of Ages, the Broadway and UK hit musical that encompasses 80’s rock to its fullest, has had the customary big screen treatment, courtesy of musical go-to director and choreographer Adam Shankman, who had huge success with Hairspray in 2007. Here, he attempts to recreate the success of his previous hit, while putting another array of A-list talent through their musical paces.
But despite that talent, even they find it hard work wrestling with a script that is somewhat lacklustre for a film based around rock and roll. Co-scripted by Justin Theroux (Iron Man 2, Tropic Thunder) you would hope that the film would have the kind of sparky dialogue and laughs that made at least the latter such a quotable film. But here, the dialogue is dire throughout, and the tone is straight out of those awful, long running US shows (The Bold and the Beautiful for example). The central relationship between Hough and Boneta (weakest of the ensemble) is horribly sickly, and makes you not really care whether they end up together or not; and the side story of Bryan Cranston’s Mayor and his wife Zeta-Jones as they start a crusade to shut down Baldwin’s Bourbon Club is mildly amusing at best, given their acting qualities.
But as cheesy and Glee-like as it may well be, when the music kicks in, you forget the faults and go with the flow. It’s here where the stars excel, elevating the film to sing-a-long pleasure, even if some of their music talent isn’t quite up to scratch of others.
Hough, well renowned in the country scene over the pond is the singing stand-out, and Zeta-Jones and Brand have been here before, and both perform well, despite Brand’s horribly Mancunian accent; Giamatti, Akerman and Baldwin, while not the strongest of singers, still adept themselves well throughout, and all give great turns. The film would have benefitted no-end to more from them.
The focus of course will be on The Cruiser, who attempts to add another string to his bow here. And he succeeds, quite admirably as luck would have it. Performing hits from Foreigner and Guns N' Roses, he acquits himself well as out-dated rocker Stacee Jaxx, whose love of booze and topless signing is brilliant throughout, even if he only needs to stay on 3rd gear to achieve it. His performance of Foreigner's 'I Want to Know What Love Is' with Akerman is the film’s stand-out song, with both gleefully singing along as they indulge in some naughty activity. (Hint: Cruise isn’t the only one without his shirt.) He has been better in many other roles, for sure, but he has rarely been as enjoyable to watch.
Not the most thought-provoking or well-written of movies, but Rock of Ages is all about the experience, and in a summer full of Bat-men, avengers of the earth and aliens, this is the whimsical escapism that no summer should be without. Fans of Glee may be disappointed it’s not as “cutesy” as the show, but for anyone who hates Glee (many, many people) this is a welcome antidote.