Rock of Ages Turns 80’s Glam Metal Into Bubblegum Music


Title: Rock of Ages
Genre: Dramatic Musical
Director: Adam Shankman
Screenplay: Justin Theroux, Chris D’Arienzo, Allan Loeb
Principle Cast: Julianne Hough, Diego Boneta, Russell Brand, Paul Giamatti, Malin Ackerman, Alec Baldwin, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Mary J. Blige and Tom Cruise
Length: 123 minutes
Released: June 15, 2012
Stars: 2.0

I was 23 years old in 1987 so I do realize that I am not exactly the target demographic audience for Rock of Ages, but after having seen the trailer I thought that, hey, this could be fun!  I’m a huge music fan and I love rock music…how bad can it be?  Well the answer to that is REALLY BLEEPING BAD!!  It was a terrible disappointment!

Rock of Ages, directed by Hairspray’s Adam Shankman, is a “dramatic” musical set in 1987 Los Angeles, but I doubt anyone who’d actually been there at that time would recognize it as such.  Supposedly at the height of the “hair-metal craze”, the film celebrates some of the lamest rock songs ever (I do, however, actually like Night Ranger’s “Sister Christian”, Joan Jett’s “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll”, and Guns ‘n’ Roses’ “Every Rose Has Its Thorn”) and regurgitates them into bubblegum pop versions.  There is not one death metal song on the soundtrack.  Most of the singing actors sound like they just took a big hit of helium before opening their mouths, particularly Julianne Hough, who plays Sherrie Christian, a Tulsa, Oklahoma girl who boards a bus to Hollywood to pursue her dreams as a singer but ends up working as a waitress and then a stripper.

There is not a real rock voice among the cast, but I must admit that Tom Cruise, who did his best to channel his inner Axl Rose as rock legend douchebag Stacee Jaxx, did a decent job and gave the finest performance in the movie, followed by newcomer Diego Boneta in his first film role as Drew Boley, an LA bar boy working at The Bourbon Room – a sleazy LA nightclub in danger of foreclosure due to its inept manager Dennis & his sidekick Lonny – while dreaming of making it as a rock star.  Tom and Diego might be the only actors in this debacle who didn’t totally embarrass themselves (Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand in bad wigs as gay lovers?  Come on!!) with their stupid, over the top performances.  Okay, Mary J. Blige was pretty good too.  However, Catherine Zeta-Jones as the LA Mayor’s puritan, anti-rock’n’roll wife, Patricia Whitmore, positively made me cringe, and Paul Giamatti’s turn as Stacee Jaxx’s slimy manager just made me shake my head.  Why Paul, why?!

This tale of two young lovers whose romance faces the obligatory challenge before the final denouement, tried hard to be sexy, but it wasn’t.  And if it was supposed to be funny, (Stacee Jaxx’s baboon, Hey Man, being the main shtick) I think the writers totally missed their marks.  Even Russell Brand, who I have often thought hilarious in his stand-up, and one of the main reasons I wanted to see the movie, was absolutely torturous!

A film adaptation of the Tony-nominated Broadway musical, Rock of Ages the movie, fails to leave you feeling euphoric about the music or pursuing your dreams.  I was just annoyed by the split scene montages of characters singing two different songs at the same time as was the case in several instances including Julianne Hough singing “More Than Words” and Diego Boneta crooning “Heaven” or Catherine Zeta-Jones’ rock music terminators shouting “We’re Not Going To Take It” while Russell Brand and his “metal” advocates belt out “We Built This City On Rock’n’Roll.”  Uggh…it’s not just me either.  The Calgary Herald wrote, “Rock of Ages sugarcoats debauchery of 1980’s heavy metal” and The Toronto Star’s Peter Howell warned: “For those about to rock, prepare to shudder instead.”  I even agree with The Daily Mail’s verdict: “Tacky and not terribly original.”

Written for an audience of 12-year-olds, Rock of Ages was sickeningly ridiculous and painful to sit through, so if you’re over 25, don’t bother going!  I want my money back.

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