Friday, June 15, 2012

Review: "Rock of Ages" Movie Musical Hits Theaters

"Rock of Ages" tells the story of small town girl Sherrie and city boy Drew, who meet on the Sunset Strip while pursuing their Hollywood Dreams. Too bad it's everyone else who are the ones worth watching. Something has to be said when the supporting case carries a film such as this rock 'n' roll romance told through the heart-pounding hits of the 1980s.

The leads are Diego Boneta, as a bartender at the Sunset Strip's hottest bar and wanna be rock star, and Julianne Hough as the naive girl looking to make it the big city. The meet, fall in love, they break-up and you should know the rest. On stage these characters were quite daffy but the two actors play the parts more or less straight. This leaves much of the fun and hijinks to the all-star cast. Boneta and Hough may not be well-known actors and probably that was the point but screen presence and the skill to make the most of the material was lost on them. They should have taken a cue card from the pros.

The meat of the film revolves around Alec Baldwin as Dennis Dupree, the owner of the bar called the Bourbon Room, who desperately needs cash to pay back taxes or risk losing his club. His right hand man and best friend Lonny (Russell Brand) is always there to pick up Dennis and provide words of support. Their saviour could be legendary rocker Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise) if they can persuade his oily manager (Paul Giamatti) to play the bar.

The main foil is Patricia (Catherine Zeta-Jones), the domineering wife of the mayor played by Bryan Cranston. She sees her main duty as the city's first lady to clean up the city from sex and rock music with an aim at closing the Bourbon Room. Her character is new and replaces the bad guy characters in the stage version.

The success and failure of the bar hinges on the unpredictable behavior of Jaxx. Even a Rolling Stone reporter (Malin Akerman) cannot tame him to focus. In fact it she who is tamed by the rocker. R&B music star Mary J. Blige has a minor role as the owner of the strip club who helps to save Sherrie from the streets.
(story continued below)

Russell Brand, Julianne Hough and Alec Baldwin.
Catherine Zeta-Jones
The bromance between Baldwin and Brand's characters takes an unexpected turn to REO Speedwagon's biggest hit song. They are the underdogs worth rooting for against Patricia. But Zeta-Jones gives her musical stage experience a workout leading a band of protesters in a church to the tune of Pat Benatar's "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" and later in a mash-up with Brand under the chords of Twisted Sisters' "We're Not Gonna Take It" and Starship's "We Built This City."

During the initial marketing of the film, the singing of Tom Cruise was kept under wraps. He doesn't say much but he throws himself into the role from when he is rocking the house to Def Leppard's "Pour Some Sugar On Me" to being half-dazed while seducing Akerman's reporter to Foreigner's "I Want To Know What Love Is." And the hit songs keep coming.

The look of the film feels authentic with a recreation of the Sunset Strip and the Bourbon Room to a Tower Records store filled with vinyl albums. The costumes of the era come complete with shoulder pads for Zeta-Jones.

Where do the leads come into play in the story of Dennis and his club. They comes to save the day when all seems lost. The film is directed by Adam Shankman who found success with handling the same duties for the adaptation of another stage musical "Hairspray." That story was also predictable and he created a tension that left you cheering when the cast converged to sing that film's show stopper finale. He could have created the same magic when the chords of Journey's "Don't Stop Believin" start to play. With stronger leads he could have.

"Rock of Ages" opens nationwide on June 15, 2012. Warner Bros. presents a film directed by Adam Shankman. Written by Justin Theroux and Chris D'Arienzo. Running time: 123 minutes. Rated PG-13 (for sexual content, suggestive dancing, some heavy drinking, and language)

Visit for more information. Soundtrack available on CD and on iTunes.

Tom Cruise
Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand
Julianne Hough and Mary J. Blige
Malin Akerman
Julianne Hough and Diego Boneta
(photos: New Line Cinema)


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