Review by Vives Anunciacion
Published June 18, 2012
Rock of Ages
Directed by Adam Shankman
Based on the multiple Tony Award-nominated Broadway musical
I wanted to like this, but it’s Glee with glam rock thrown in. Rock of Ages the movie is a collection of music videos of karaoke-covered rock anthems vigorously mixed in a Rainbow Brite bag. If you like Glee, you’ll like this movie. I never liked Glee, never ever. Nor did I like Rainbow Brite.
Based on the hit Broadway musical of the same name, the jukebox musical is about love and artistic struggle in the sunset years of Glam Rock. Just think: Bon Jovi, Journey, Twisted Sister, Poison, Pat Benatar, Extreme, Steve Perry, Starship, and Def Leppard, among others.
Small-town girl Sherrie (Julianne Hough) and city boy Drew (Diego Boneta) fall in love on Sunset Strip as they struggle to reach their Hollywood dreams. Drew helps Sherrie get a job as a waitress in the Bourbon Room – a run-down joint that was in its heyday the center of Rock & Roll until pop music came along. Careers and relationships collide while the mayor (Bryan Cranston) and his conservative wife Patricia (Catherine Zeta-Jones) connive to rid the city of its “sins.”
Alec Baldwin plays the owner of Bourbon Room Dennis Dupree, who makes a last-ditch attempt to revive the bar by inviting rock god Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise) to perform. Jaxx is the literal, and Cruise is the figurative, superstar of the show, as if the Mission Impossible star was born to act the self-absorbed, strange Stacee Jaxx.
The film is hyper-edited to the point that many performances by the actors are cut off just to showcase choreography. The story is paper-thin as it is with the original, but of course the original benefits from live performances. The sets may look big and there may be lots of extras and dancers, but the on-screen business is all pretend, just like a TV show shot in a studio.
The film would have benefitted a lot from more engaging and better performing leads. Case in point is the only exception to the karaoke proceedings: Stacey Jaxx. Whether is was truly Tom Cruise singing Stacey Jaxx or not is irrelevant, because we see him truly AS Stacey Jaxx.
The one scene where the film actually attempts to be daring is when music journalist Constance (Malin Akerman) interviews Jaxx in “I Want to Know What Love Is.” After that scene, I kept wondering why the film lost the hyper-camp, tongue-in-cheek, rowdy comedy of the stage original, considering that the film director is the stage version’s choreographer, who was also responsible for the Hairspray movie. There’s another scene worth noting, involving Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand (Lonny) but should remain a surprise.
The rest of the film is a teen TV show pretending to be a rock jukebox musical that’s about as rock-rebellious as alcohol-laced fruit punch at Prom. There’s a reason the stage musical had the song “We Built This City” and that was because the strip was being physically demolished. In the movie, the song is an excuse so ‘80s personalities such as Debbie Gibson and Sebastian Bach can cameo in the crowd.
While I never saw the Broadway version, I just recently saw the Manila staging which opened last Friday (which shall be the subject of my next review.) It should not be unfair to compare the film with the stage version, just as the Manila staging is open game for those who saw the Broadway mount. This much I can declare, as fair as I can say it: the movie is nothing like the stage musical. Not at all. The music may sound familiar, but the verve isn’t just the same.