Review: The Rocker
Plot: Back in the eighties, Robert "Fish" Fishman (Rainn Wilson) was the drummer for the hair metal band Vesuvius. Just before the band hit the big time, Fish got the boot- and twenty years later, he still dreams of one day becoming a rock star. Meanwhile, his nephew Matt (Josh Gad) has formed a high school band (called A.D.D) along with pals Amelia (Emma Stone) & Curtis (Teddy Geiger). When their drummer is unable to play prom, Fish steps in- and soon becomes a full fledged member of the band. When a video of the band practicing hits youtube, A.D.D becomes an internet phenomenon, and soon the band is signed to a record contract- and sent out on tour. After years of sitting on the sidelines, Fish finally gets his chance at stardom- but will soon discover that rock stardom may not be all it's cracked up to be...
Review: Despite the fact that THE ROCKER is opening during the dreaded late August dumping grounds, this film is actually a pleasant surprise. Despite being a big Rainn Wilson fan, I didnt really have high expectations for the movie. The trailer for the film made it look like an unfunny SCHOOL OF ROCK rip-off, and while it definitely has a few things in common with that film, it's in no way a cheap knockoff.
The biggest difference between the two films is that the main character in this film actually IS a talented musician. Once he hooks up with A.D.D- the band actually becomes successful (which the trailers do not acknowledge at all- even though it happens very early in the film). If anything- THE ROCKER has more things in common with ALMOST FAMOUS than it does with SCHOOL OF ROCK (although admittedly- the film is no where near as good as ALMOST FAMOUS, which I think is Cameron Crowe's masterpiece).
Obviously- the thing that makes THE ROCKER work as well as it does is Rainn Wilson's performance. Wilson does a great job in his first solo big screen outing- and wisely does not portray a character that is too similar to Dwight from THE OFFICE. Granted- they're both hair metal fans, and a tad on the odd side, but Fish is a much nicer guy than Dwight. One of the things I liked most about the film was Fish's relationship with Curtis- A.D.D's lead singer, whose angst ridden over the fact that his father abandoned him when he was a child. When he realizes how much pain Curtis is in, Fish tries to step up and become a type of father figure- which was nice to see. It's nice that a little heart was injected into the film rather than make it an all out comedy. It's directed by Peter Cattaneo who also directed THE FULL MONTY- and the film kind of has a similar vibe going. They also underplay his semi-romance with Curtis's mom- played by Christina Applegate, which if not handled carefully might have made the film a little too saccharine.
While THE ROCKER is obviously Wilson's show, the supporting cast is also pretty tight. I liked Emma Stone as the lone female member of the group, and Teddy Geiger does a good job as Curtis. As for Josh Gad as Wilson's nephew- I was a bit taken aback by his uncanny resemblance to Jonah Hill, especially due to the fact that he delivers his lines exactly the same as Hill would. Perhaps this is just a coincidence- but in the future he should probably try to avoid being too similar to the more famous Hill- or people might think he's doing an impersonation.
My favorite thing about the supporting cast is that they got Will Arnett, Fred Armisen & Bradley Cooper to play Fish's old band mates. Arnett in particular nails the eighties hair metal band vibe- and I think it stands as the funniest thing he's done since ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT. The only problem with these guys is that after their first scene I kept waiting for them to re-appear, and was disappointed that they only get one more scene towards the end.
Considering the time of year, THE ROCKER is a nice little late summer sleeper. I hope it does well enough for Wilson to get more big-screen vehicles, as he's a truly talented guy. While it's not as side-splittingly funny as TROPIC THUNDER- it's a very pleasant way to kill ninety minutes.
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