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Overall Rating
2.28

Awesome: 3.13%
Worth A Look: 6.25%
Just Average46.88%
Pretty Crappy: 3.13%
Sucks: 40.63%

4 reviews, 8 user ratings


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Rock of Ages
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by Brett Gallman

"Shut up and play the hits."
3 stars

“Rock of Ages” isn’t so much a movie as much as it’s an elaborate karaoke routine, and one’s enjoyment of it will certainly hinge on their tolerance for the Classic Rock FM playlist that’s been dialed up here. Despite growing up during a time when many of these songs were just becoming immortalized, I must have enough built up to tap along to the beat and have nothing but a good time, as it were.

I’m also a huge mark for the late 80s L.A. scene; I was never there, and I imagine that it was decidedly not “just like living in paradise,” but you’d never know it from this big, glitzy glamorous production that sees small-town Oklahoma girl Sherrie (Julianne Hough) striking out for Hollywood in the hopes of becoming a singer. Upon arrival, she’s mugged on the street (a likely result) before landing a job at The Bourbon Room (see, it wasn’t that bad!), a local nightclub where she meets Drew (Diego Boneta), a busboy with rock and roll aspirations.

He especially wants to be just like glam rocker Stacee Jaxx, the drugged-out lead singer of Arsenal, who will be playing their final show at the Bourbon before he goes solo. Club owner Dennis (Alec Baldwin) needs a big draw to stay afloat, as his club has been caught in the cross-hairs of a right-wing activist (Catherine Zeta-Jones) who has aimed to rid the strip of all its filth and sleaze.

All of this plot is intermittent to the musical numbers, whose intrusions are so frequent that you’re sometimes left wondering why you shouldn’t just be at home listening to these songs. There are times when it feels like you’ve purchased a soundtrack whose plot is optional, and it more or less works initially, as Adam Shankman directs with an incredibly infectious energy. Sherrie’s wide-eyed arrival in L.A. is wonderfully spirited and idyllic (save for the mugging) and effortlessly captures the awe and allure of the city to a small-town girl.

The film keeps up with this pace for a while with some inventive routines, but it soon becomes apparent that Shankman has just a few too many coins, and you kind of wish he’d quit shoving them into the jukebox with reckless abandon. By the time the film climaxes to the strains of “Don’t Stop Believing” (a moment that’s telegraphed about fifteen minutes in), the lyrics that insist “the movie never ends” start to feel like a threat. The non-musical portions of the script do the film no favors in rescuing it from tedium, as the various beats range from sophomoric high school drama to the predictable stuff of corrupted Hollywood dreams. Most of it is essentially reverse engineered into the play list, which accentuates every single beat (sometimes more than once).

With a less talented cast, “Rock of Ages” would be more of a chore, but Shankman has assembled a good set of performers who are finely-tuned to their roles. Hough radiates star-power, and even though her twang is perhaps better suited for Nashville, she isn’t asked to extend too much here as a starry-eyed songstress. Boneta seems to be hopelessly caught in her gaze, so the chemistry between the two never quite sparks, but they’re an agreeable enough duo. Baldwin and associate Russell Brand are also an unexpectedly effective pair; the film is rarely genuinely funny, preferring instead to revel in abject silliness and cornball sensibilities, but these two provide both humor and heart as a couple of aging rockers who just want their club to stand for one more night of whiskey-fuelled debauchery.

The greatest casting triumph, however, is Cruise, whose Stacee Jaxx is an obvious riff on Axl Rose; an enigmatic recluse who is notoriously difficult to work with, Jaxx is a spaced-out, fallen rock god whose entourage includes a monkey and a horde of groupies. Cruise’s presence is not only incredibly magnetic, but also nuanced enough to take the edge of a guy who shouldn’t be very likable. He perfectly captures how someone like Axl Rose could still have legions of devoted followers; Jaxx may be pathetic and constantly sucking on an empty bottle of booze, but he’s also a tractor beam of charisma.

He would perhaps be a better man if not for his agent (Paul Giamatti), a snaky Colonel Tom Parker-style schemer that eventually acts as a greasy Mephistopheles to Diego’s character. If Jaxx’s bloodstream has been completely replaced by Wild Turkey, then his agent’s arteries are certainly lined with bullshit and oil, and the film briefly develops a conscience when it explores his various manipulations. Cruise does what he can to relay Jaxx’s soulful struggle with a system that’s made him its slave, but there’s little room for introspection in a film that also has him belting out Foreigner directly into Malin Akermin's butthole.

“Rock of Ages” is obviously far too cartoonish and too infatuated with its scene to cast any sort of incisive look at it; instead, it’s an agreeable collection of 80s fetishism and an easily digestible checklist of plot points. Everyone involved seemingly didn’t even bother to ponder the appropriation of certain songs, as one number features a bunch of shaggy metal-heads defiantly singing Jefferson Starship while their moral majority counterparts retort with Twisted Sister.

That’s pretty much indicative of “Rock of Ages,” though; this is the 80s “hard rock” scene as glimpsed from the comfortable distance of two decades, at which point it has become an easy-going farce of power ballads and potty humor. It’s a film that wants to engage in the vomitous excess, but it doesn’t exactly get puke in your hair.

Still, “Rock of Ages” is a plentifully tacky and dumb melodrama whose tongue manages to be firmly planted in its cheek when it isn’t being used to croon its tunes. It aims to be Van Halen, but ends up being more like Van Hagar--which is to say it’s better than Van Cherone.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=23146&reviewer=429
originally posted: 06/15/12 05:08:25
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User Comments

11/07/13 deceiver Gotta be in the right mood, but there's fun to be had 3 stars
9/18/12 Gabrielle Barnard A contender for the worst movie I've ever watched. 1 stars
7/24/12 Mick Gillies OK I'm the odd one out as I thought it fun and musically sound 4 stars
7/02/12 James Thomas im a 80's kid i loved the music 5 stars
6/25/12 Lee Ann I couldn't sit through the whole thing--I've seen better movies on LMN--really terrible. 2 stars
6/22/12 Al R A god glimpse into the world of Rock& Rool. 4 stars
6/18/12 Jeff Wilder Cheesy as hell. But fun. 3 stars
6/16/12 Ady boy Nothing is as bad as Mamma Mia. It doesn't have Colin Firth so it's okay. 3 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  15-Jun-2012 (PG-13)
  DVD: 09-Oct-2012

UK
  N/A

Australia
  15-Jun-2012
  DVD: 09-Oct-2012




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