ROCK OF AGES (Adam Shankman, 2012)
As musicals go, ROCK OF AGES passes for some decent entertainment. It is equal doses funny, nostalgic, and hard-rock slamming. I mean it's not CHICAGO or DREAMGIRLS (which could be the barometer for period piece musicals) but it sure provides a hell amount of fun. Russell Brand alone will suffice.
At its core is a love story between a small town girl and a city boy, Sherrie and Drew (Julianne Hough and Diego Boneta). Yes, the line is familiar, and you've probably heard it gazillion times, you Gleek, and you bet your ass they sing that song here, but Journey's timeless song fits better in this era (and in this story) rather than in GLEE. But fret not. Lea Michele sings way better.
Maybe a bit too much cheesy on the young love/follow-your-dreams angle, ROCK OF AGES manages to push forward because leads Hough and Boneta are sexy together. Yes their conflicts are textbook cinematic cliche, but you can't help but hope that they end up together in the end. And yes, I liked their rendition of Foreigner's "Waiting For A Girl Like You".
Tom Cruise is compelling and electrifying to watch as the stereotypical rock star Stacee Jaxx, and by stereotypical I meant eyeliner, booze, long hair, half-naked, and sex. I didn't know Cruise can actually sing, and when he does he does it so well. The role was tailor fitted for him. The Stacee Jaxx character was decently-written enough that there is a human side to the rock star character in the end. We all refer to rock stars (at least those in the 80s) as self-obsessed, Narcissistic, drug-overdosed, promiscuous individuals that make good music, but ROCK OF AGES gives us a peek into their world through Stacee Jaxx and his complex existence. The treatment of the moral redemption angle might be a little patronizing for some's tastes, but it's better than to have Jaxx as a soulless SOB.
Alec Baldwin is doing Jack Donaghy here, only with longer hair (which is fun!) whereas Russell Brand's character Lenny can indeed be a mashup of Arthur Bach sarcasm and Aldous Snow appearance. If you cannot relate to these references then it's high time you started watching 30 ROCK and Brand's previous films (which are side-splitting, by the way). In fact the pairing of Baldwin and Brand is like a comedy match made in artistic heaven.
Mary J. Blige is a powerful presence as Venus Club owner Justice Charlier, and especially during the "Any Way You Want It" number, but I wish the story expounded more on her character and her struggles, since we see her singing to the songs that the main characters sing, sans the connecting link of her life story to theirs.
Of course there has to be someone who has to rain on the parade. Catherine Zeta-Jones as the prim and proper devoted housewife/Los Angeles first lady Patricia Whitmore, who firmly opposes rock and roll is up to the task of maintaining to be irritating while still playing it charming. Think INTOLERABLE CRUELTY level of funny.
Paul Giamatti is a perfect choice as the record producer. Here's one actor whom you will believe whatever he says. He says he can make you famous, you believe him. The only time (in memory) that Giamatti sucked at roleplay was in HANGOVER PART 2. But then again it's a glorified remake with a different setting. You should go see SIDEWAYS, where Giamatti should have won an Oscar.
Even Malin Akerman plays a very pivotal role in the story, as Rolling Stones writer Constance Sack, who undresses Stacee Jaxx's ego and more.
For what it's worth, ROCK OF AGES promises a good time if only for the music. This is the movie tribute to Rock and Roll, for every ideal it stood for, and for the countless people whose fondest memories are of rock concerts, roadshows, and perhaps sex in toilet cubicles.
There were some pretty dismal choice in music, I wouldn't exactly say poor- but rather miscalculated. Like I didn't need to see "More Than Words" add cheese to the romance. 60% of the songs I'm vaguely familiar with, and I was born on the year that the film takes place- 1987. Nevertheless, those songs I know, those of Journey, of REO Speedwagon, and Starship- those are actually nice to witness being incorporated into a story worth seeing.
ROCK OF AGES rocks, and it rocks hard, with pretty convincing characters and a solid lineup of music. What it lacks is a better characterization for its two young leads- other than that it's a good time at the movies.