History has not been kind to the eighties and neither has “Rock of Ages,” based on the Broadway musical, a terrible mess of clichés and lip syncing.
Juliane Hough (“Dancing with the Stars”) plays Sherrie, an Oklahoma farm girl coming to LA for superstardom. There she meets Drew (Diego Boneta), barback for the club “Bourbon” who also has rock’n roll dreams.
A romance blooms, one that will be tested later when one of these two reaches stardom. He gets her a job working for his boss (Alec Baldwin), who is hitting hard times with the club and hoping one-time rock god Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise), in a final concert before going solo, can save it.
That is if Patricia Whitmore (Catherine Zeta-Jones), conservative wife of the mayor, doesn’t manage to shut it and the rest of rock n’ roll down first,
because, well, this is the eighties and politicians, mothers, and reverends have nothing else to worry about.
Directed by Adam Shankman, who had a far more successful time adapting the “Hairspray” musical, “Rock” claims to like and dedicate itself to the power of rock n’ roll but it leaves the music feeling like some kind of joke. The stars try way too hard to preen, pose, and look the part of rock star attitude, the plot only serving to lead them to the next sub-par musical number/cover of songs from Journey, R.E.O. Speedwagon, Def Leppard, and more. But the music might as well be background noise, judging by how much feeling is actually put into them.
Hough and Boneta, bland actors who are given a thin romance to begin with, seem too much like their giving the American Idol-version of these songs, i.e it’s more soulless karaoke than anything Steve Perry managed to bring to a song like “Don’t Stop Believin’.”
It’s nice that this movie has a sense of humor about itself, how else to explain a sex scene to “I Wanna Know What Love Is” or an Alec Baldwin-Russell Brand duet to “Can’t Fight This Feeling”, but these performances strike a chord more for their oddness than for being valid renditions.
Cruise has fun playing the kind of spaced-out, self-absorbed rock star we’ve come to expect, while Baldwin, Paul Giamatti (as Stacee’s sleazy manager), and Russell Brand (the club’s co-promoter) are here to try to make the jokes work but even they come off like picking on easy targets, like boy bands (something that was old-hat back in the late 90’s when MTV did the same joke with their mock boy band, 2gether), and only Brand really hits a few out of the park. Otherwise “Rock of Ages,” with a director who has a pedigree for choreography and this excellent cast, should have been a slam dunk but the fact that they don’t “hit us with their best shot” is just a reminder that “every rose has its thorn”.