Movie Review: Rock of Ages

Mike Finkelstein just traveled back in time to 1985. It was a wonderful age, filled with crazy club nights, rock stars, and the best music you could get your hands on! Oh, and he also got a flock of seagulls haircut…that was probably not the best choice…Here is his review of “Rock of Ages”.

Mike Finkelstein just traveled back in time to 1985.  It was a wonderful age, filled with crazy club nights, rock stars, and the best music you could get your hands on!  Oh, and he also got a flock of seagulls haircut…that was probably not the best choice…Here is his review of “Rock of Ages”.

PLOT: The musical story of Sherrie Christian (Julianne Hough), who comes to Hollywood from Kansas with dreams of becoming a singer.  Soon, her small town ways are traded in for a life of rock and roll when she goes to work at the famous Bourbon Room club and meets the perfect boy, Drew Boley (Diego Boneta).  Yet, when rock God Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise) rolls into town for a supposedly free concert to save the club, everything goes haywire.  But don’t worry…there’s always time to sing “Don’t Stop Believin”.

Check out the trailer:

MIKE’S REVIEW:  When an established Broadway musical makes its way to the big screen for its inevitable adaptation, it’s lucky to have a few built in support factors: a huge fan base that’ll go see the film in a second, a grouping of songs that everyone already knows, and all the money and celebrities the studio can throw at the production.  Sometimes, all of this culminates into an amazing version that everyone can agree does justice to the original source material (GREASE, CHICAGO).  Most of the time, however, it ends up turning the story we love into a superstar-filled fragment of its former self.

ROCK OF AGES tells the story of Sherrie Christian (Julianne Hough) a young girl from Kansas who made her way to Hollywood to fulfill her dream of becoming a singer.  When her records are stolen (obviously, everything else is intact…but someone had to grab those damn records…), she meets Drew Boley (Diego Boneta), also an aspiring singer, as well as a waiter at the famous Bourbon Room club.  With the club—and all of its kooky characters—as their background, the two fall madly in love and attempt to chase their dreams, fight off the man, and save the Bourbon Room and rock and roll as we know it.

And then there’s the man, the myth, the legend: Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise).

For anyone who has seen the stage version of “Rock of Ages”, you should be warned that Justin Theroux,
Chris D’Arienzo, and Allan Loeb took many, many liberties with the screenplay that almost seem sacrilegious.  Full scenes and interactions have changed.  Some characters (due to the star power behind them) are given much more screen time than ever before, while others are either invented or disappear entirely.  And while this may have not been too horrible if the main plot points stayed the same, we realize about halfway through that we are not watching the original “Rock of Ages” that we all loved, but the sweet, bubblegum, everyone-has-their-moment-to-redeem-themselves version.  And it’s so campy, it almost hurts.

Then, there is the issue of celebrity.  Lately, it seems like movie musicals throw in every big-named celebrity they could find (MAMMA MIA, NINE). It doesn’t matter if it’s because it causes a better draw for audiences, or because the celebrities are dying to step into the character’s shoes…doing that is the worst injustice you could do to the source material.  I left the theater not remembering one actual character’s name besides Stacee Jaxx (and that’s only because he was everywhere).  I didn’t laugh at Dennis Dupree or Lonnie…I laughed at Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand.  I didn’t cry for Sherrie…I felt horrible for Ryan Seacrest’s girlfriend.  Stick with unknowns or the original cast (a la RENT, most of HAIRSPRAY), and the story shines.  Stick with the biggest names in Hollywood, and the story takes a backseat, right next to luggage, makeup artists, and entourage.

Now, I’m not going to say that I didn’t enjoy what I was watching at all. To be honest, how could I not?  Whether it be “We’re Not Gonna Take It”, “Any Way You Want It”, “Don’t Stop Believin”, or any of the other twenty hits, ROCK OF AGES brings all the classic songs we love from the 80s and throws them on a jumbo movie screen for us to jam along to!  And while it did take away from the heart of the story, it really was a blast to see Alec Baldwin, Russell Brand, and all the rest basically doing some glorified Hollywood karaoke.  They know what movie they’re making and go all out in every scene they’re in, making some precious moments for us to enjoy.

Oh yeah…I almost forgot…Tom f*cking Cruise.  Yes, he is one of the biggest stars on the planet.  Yes, they completely changed the role around for him.  Yes, it is the ultimate Hollywood karaoke that we all want to see…but G*d damn, the man is good.  From his ridiculous and priceless introduction all the way to the final number, Cruise steals every moment he is on screen, and completely embodies the bizarre, drugged-up rocker that is Stacee Jaxx.  You could say anything you want about his personal life, but Cruise is nothing short of extraordinary (and a pretty damn good singer, as well…), and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him get a few nominations, and maybe even a Golden Globe down the line.

ROCK OF AGES, without a doubt, has some amazing factors going for it: a hell of a soundtrack, a wonderful following, and a star-studded cast that includes a brilliant Tom Cruise.  However, with all these great factors, the liberties taken by its writers to create a more family friendly, clean cut version steals away all the aspects that made us love the original on Broadway.  If you can’t wait to see your favorite celebs belting out the tunes of the 80s as you head bang along, then get yourself over to the theater.  If you want to see the original substance that made the show was it is, I suggest making your way over to Broadway and spending a little extra for a seat at the Helen Hayes Theater.  Whatever your preference is, just make sure you’re ready for the nostalgia.

GRADE: B

Mike’s LIKES:

1) TOM CRUISE: After seeing this and Les Grossman, I would no doubt follow Cruise into the depths of movie hell.  The man is brilliant in everything he does, and plays Stacee Jaxx just like the rock legend he should be!

2) RUSSELL BRAND AND ALEC BALDWIN: These two stole the show in every scene they’re in.  Brand has no problem just going off and letting his crazy loose, and Alec is right there with him step for step.  They had fun, and we had fun.

3) DAMN BOY BANDS: The portrait of boy bands painted near the end of the 80s was absolutely hysterical to watch.  To these rock stars, the boy bands weren’t anywhere near real music, and Sherrie’s line of “You win” just makes it all the better.

4) PAUL GIAMATTI: What a slimeball.  Besides Tom Cruise, Giamatti was the only actor in this entire film that really sunk into his character’s skin.  The guy was an evil turd of a manager, and showed why he is one of the great supporting actors of this generation.

Mike’s DISLIKES:

1) GLORIFIED KARAOKE SESSION: With all the celebrities floating around, it’s hard to see the real characters in ROCK OF AGES.  Instead, what we get is a glorified karaoke session for all our favorite celebrities.  Now, I’m not saying this is necessarily a horrible thing (it’s still fun to watch), but it stinks when you realize that you missed out on the real story and characters because “Hey!  Alec Baldwin is singing!!”

2) BUBBLEGUM VERSION: Justin Theroux, Chris D’Arienzo, and Allan Loeb took many, many liberties with the screenplay that’ll make any fan of the original Broadway show angry.  Yes, it’s still the same characters and ideas, but the heart and soul is different, replaced by a cleaner, bubblegum version.

EXTRA FACTS:

1) Constantine Maroulis, who originated the role of Drew Boley in the Broadway show and was nominated for the 2009 Tony for Best Leading Actor in a Musical, plays a record executive in this film.

2) Will Ferrell and Steve Carrell were also considered to play Dennis Dupree.  Luckily, the role went to Alec Baldwin

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4 Comments

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