Old 06-15-2012, 04:49 AM
Rock of Ages

How much do you love the 1980’s? Or more specifically 1980’s music? That will be the question you’ll need to ask yourself before stepping into the full-throttle camp hijinks of Rock of Ages. Having successfully adapted ‘Hairspray’ to the big screen a few years back director Adam Shankman has taken it upon himself to see if lightning can strike twice by moving ‘Rock of Ages’ from stage view to cinemascope, and with utter intemperance he’s created a wild, flamboyant and superficial film that bets big on its soundtrack and cast, and comes up a winner more often than not. The mixture of an overly long running time, choppy editing, and back-to-basics storytelling should’ve resulted in something worthy of a cinematic scrap-heap but somehow it manages to stay afloat.

As to be expected in a tale like this, our protagonist is a sprightly young girl travelling from the small sights of Oklahoma to the bright lights of Hollywood with dreams of becoming a singer. As Sherrie, Julianne Hough does a decent enough job of getting the audience invested in her (it certainly doesn’t hurt that she’s a pretty little thing) and her immense, but generic, appeal helps her overcome her role’s shortcomings. After belting out a mash-up of ‘Sister Christian’ and ‘Just Like Paradise’, her arrival in the big city leaves her down and out when she is mugged of her belongings on the street, leading her to meet Drew (Diego Boneta), a wannabe rockstar and barhand at the legendary Bourbon Room, a waning club that in its day was the place to be. Introducing Sherrie to Bourbon Room’s owner Dennis Dupree (Alec Baldwin), she lands herself a job and soon after a song-inducing romance with Drew. One thing that should be noted is that despite the film’s running time, it moves at an extraordinarily rapid pace so our leads are almost instantly in love from the moment they meet.

In the midst of all this blissful romance, which allows a plethora of musical mash-ups including ‘Heaven’ and ‘Waiting For A Girl Like You’, the Bourbon Room is hoping it can dodge closure by staging the debut solo performance of notorious rock god Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise, in a truly inspired turn), lead singer of the group Arsenal. With his personal assistant (a monkey – literally!) and sleazy manager Paul Gill (Paul Giamatti) in tow, Jaxx never makes it easy for those around him and it’s when he is interviewed by Rolling Stone reporter Constance Sack (Malin Akerman) that he realises his vapid lifestyle is largely due to the selfish actions of Gill and all he really wants is to be loved, something he finds with Constance, resulting in a rendition of Foreigner’s ‘I Want To Know What Love Is’ which will forever change the way you interpret that song.

Offsetting this we have the inclusion of Catherine Zeta-Jones as Patricia Whitmore, wife to the newly elected Mayor of Los Angeles (Bryan Cranston), who has a particularly strong desire to see the club strip shut down for good, knowing that if the Bourbon Room goes, other establishments will follow. There’s a particular reason for her intent to rid the town of ‘sex, hateful music, and SEX’, one that may not come as too much of a surprise but it does allow the actress to relish in being a villainess, not to mention belting out an unforgettable performance of Pat Benatar’s ‘Hit Me With Your Best Shot’.

Whilst that may sound like somewhat of a developed plot, ‘Rock of Ages’ is running on empty when it comes down to it but a film like this is never made with the intention of good storytelling. It’s a musical first and foremost so the music is the true narrative, and with its selection it gets the job done. Some song inclusions are a bit of stretch in terms of their involvement to whatever arc or thoughts our characters are experiencing and then you have the stunt casting of Mary J.Blige as a the owner of a strip club, who is clearly only there so she can belt a serious tune, but honestly you just don’t care when there’s so much joy thrown into the production. The film is utterly ridiculous, but you expect that they all know this, and the fact that everyone goes along with it only makes it that much more enjoyable (you only have to look at a duet of ‘I Can’t Fight This Feeling’ by Baldwin and his right-hand man Russell Brand for proof).

‘Rock of Ages’ won’t be for everyone, the casting of Cruise proved enough of a drama on its own, but if you can stomach musicals, and have a fondness for the 80’s then I don’t see why this shouldn’t be rewarding.
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