Is The Office becoming to today’s movie culture what Friends was to the 1990s? Is Steve Carell transforming into the new Jennifer Aniston, appearing in mass-appeal star vehicles of varying quality, with the occasional indie effort thrown in for credibility? Possibly. Jenna Fischer has played supporting roles in comedies such as Judd Apatow’s Walk Hard. A Lisa Kudrow starter kit? Mmmmm, sort of.
So far, John Krasinski has spent his big screen time in headier fare – Jarhead and Leatherheads. He is co-writing/directing/starring in an adaptation of a David Foster Wallace book. Now, which Friend would have the mental wherewithal to read a David Foster Wallace book, much less adapt and direct one? I don’t know. But we’re guessing not Matt LeBlanc. (Actually, Kudrow is a brainiac). In terms of Friends films, Rainn Wilson’s The Rocker probably fits in the harmless fluff category of the David Schwimmer-Gwyneth Paltrow vehicle The Pallbearer. At least it doesn’t stand out in the annals of What-The-Hell?
Cinema, like LeBlanc’s infamous me-and-my-monkey baseball comedy, Ed. The Rocker has a pretty workable premise but a different drummer it never finds. In the eighties, Wilson’s Robert “Fish” Fishman manned the skins for soon-to-be rock legends Vesuvius. Then they ditched him and got huge. He played Pete Best to somebody else’s Ringo. Twenty years later, after losing his lame tech support job, he moves in with his sister’s family. And hey, what do you know? His pokey teen-age nephew’s band needs a drummer. With the help of Fish’s epic drumming, greasy mullet and naked ass, the band erupts into an overnight YouTube sensation. So Fish hits the road again, this time with a band too young to drink, too into video games to party, and with a mother/chaperone/stock domesticated love interest (Christina Applegate) tagging along to keep everyone out of trouble. And jail.
The characters aren’t three-dimensional, but at least they are likably two. Fish might be all wet in many ways, annoying at times. But he knows music, and he knows people. The band members are too milquetoast to be believable instant stars in today’s music climate. But I like the fact that the film has a positive female teen-ager – the moody bassist played by Emma Stone of Superbad – rather than the muppets we’ve grown accustomed to seeing lately. And the kids have a nice vibe. The music is actually fairly hummable.
The Rocker has wild mood swings, the type that leads to trashed hotel rooms. When the film forces Spinal Tap hair-band slapstick debauchery, it becomes unamusing and abusive. Yet when it plays to its innocence, it can be witty and occasionally a bit moving. It is too much a goofy teen-age fantasy to be a good film, but with a certain naïve sweetness, it resists the looming temptation to be a disaster.