Rock of Ages

By إبن البيطار (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (], via Wikimedia CommonsAfter failing to get to see a film during the week (partially courtesy of Cineworld and their decision to only have one showing a day of the 2D versions of films), we managed to find the time at the weekend for a second attempt. Sadly, only the one film as Abe Lincoln is still only on at 13:30 at our local.

Rock of Ages

“I’m a stripper.”
I’m in a boy band.”
“… You win.”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Boy meets girl, boy falls in love with girl, boy and girl bugger it up, boy and girl sort it out again at the end. With rock.

See it if you like: stage musicals, proper music, guilty pleasures

In honesty, I wasn’t sure what to expect with this one, other than “nothing like any musical you’ve ever seen before” or something, as declared by the trailer. Well, just for the record it is exactly like most musicals based around the music industry you’ve ever seen (one look at the “plot-in-a-nutshell” above will give that away). What it does have going for it is a kick-ass soundtrack, some of which I assume is taken from the stage play on which the film is based.

OK, so I’m biased. I like proper music and this is my primary reason for taking the chance and going to see it. There’s no doubting the supporting cast are strong enough – Tom Cruise as the flaky rock god, Catherine Zeta-Jones as the sexy wife of the mayor who is trying to rid the town of evil rock ‘n’ roll, Alec Baldwin as the club owner, Russell Brand as a prick (OK, not actually but he is).

Our leads are relatively new to the big movie game. Diego Boneta‘s history seems to be in dodgy Spanish-language soaps and a 90210 remake whereas Julianne Hough has worked her way through Disney-style musicals and the remake of Footloose. She also has an incredibly nasal voice which got on my wick from the first song.

Oh, yeah. Songs. This is a musical. Not just a film with some songs thrown in around the plot,  but the type of film where crowds of random people break into dance routines randomly. So more Showgirls (to which is has been compared in some reviews) than School of Rock.

That was jarring, I have to admit. Mentally, I expect that kind of thing on a stage rather than a cinema screen. But once I got over that little brain hurdle, I started to settle in and enjoy it more – mainly as the choice of songs was so good, even if the vocal performances were somewhat lacking at times.

As well as the aforementioned Hough, Cruise should stick to abseiling down stupidly tall buildings. Kudos to him for having a go at expanding his acting range, but he’s taken one step too far outside of his comfort zone here. He’s not awful but he’s not very good either. His performance is superb as Stacee Jaxx, washed-up drunk mentalist rock star – but it’s let down by his singing performance. A shame as that’s kind of key here.

Off to the side, Baldwin and Brand play very well off each other though their little twist in the story is telegraphed very far in advance. Anyone who didn’t see that coming really needs to get out more. I still can’t stand Brand, but he fits in well here as the comedy relief, and annoyingly gets many of the best lines. Oh, and Baldwin can’t sing but at least he had the sense to not even really try.

Is this a great musical? Probably on stage. I loved the couple of times where a pair of songs were intertwined – it worked incredibly well and I can just see this being so much fun in a theatre. That’s missing with a cinema setting, which is a shame. It’s an enjoyable film, but a live cast whooping it up in front of you would be hugely superior. Something like the grossly under-rated Bandslam is far better suited to the big screen.

Is it the best rock-n-roll-based film ever made? Nah. Off the top of my head Detroit Rock City and Airheads knock it for six, both for story and laughs.

Importantly, though, it doesn’t care. It’s not a film that remotely takes itself seriously and this is where it wins. It’s debauched, fun, silly and entertaining with some great songs – and you end up thinking “I could have been a rock star, dammit” by the time the credits roll.

Worth taking a chance on. There’s not much else out at the moment. At least not unless you mind being rail-roaded into paying extra for bloody 3D.


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