Rock of Ages (2012)
Dir: Adam Shankman
“Oh, the movie never ends. It goes on and on and on and on”… Thanks for the warning Journey!
This was based on the Broadway jukebox musical of the same name. It’s probably got a lot to thank Mamma Mia (which I didn’t much enjoy) for, as that film really showed there was an audience for jukebox musicals. Here we have at the backbone a love story of Sherrie (Julianne Hough), a young woman who moves from a small town to make it big in L.A. as a singer, but steps off the bus and is mugged. In steps handsome barman (and aspiring musician) Drew (Mexican pop singer and actor Diego Boneta) who comforts her and immediately gets her a job waiting tables in The Bourbon Room, a rock club on the strip. The club is run by Dennis Dupree (Alec Baldwin) and his partner Lonny (Russell Brand), and it is struggling financially with the main hope of saving it coming from temperamental rock legend Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise) performing there. The rest of the story is a troubled romance between the young people, and Jaxx trying to find himself, all with a backdrop of the mayor (Bryan Cranston) and more vehemently his wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones) trying to clean up the strip and shut down the club.
Firstly, the dialogue is just so weak, I can’t quite stress that point enough. The songs are all classics, but almost every single line between them is utter rubbish, feeling like it got straight through from the first draft.
It wouldn’t really be fair for me to have a go at the elements that came from the stage musical, but so much blame has to go to the film-makers that brought it to screen. One of the writers, Justin Theroux, also wrote Tropic Thunder (also starring Tom Cruise in a crazy role), tonaly it is much more in that direction than a big-screen lavish musical. Another one of the writers, Allan Loeb, wrote films like ‘Here Comes the Boom’ and ‘Just Go With It’. Both of these writers were really far too much in zany/bawdy comedy mode and not enough in ‘feelgood musical’ mindset, which leads to it not being feelgood at all.
I can completely see how people would enjoy this on stage when on a theatre holiday, it’s a simple to follow love story and the songs are well-known and energetic, but it’s just not good enough material for cinema. The first scene between Cruise and his love interest, a ‘Rolling Stone’ reporter played by Malin Ackerman, gets close to serious and somewhat decent, it feels a tiny bit like ‘Almost Famous’, but then those moments are so rare and only last a few seconds before descending straight back into complete nonsense. The majority of the film feels like some kind of skit or spoof, really akin to something that might be put together for a TV christmas special, or to raise money for a charity telethon.
Lost in all the rubbish is the fact that the vocal performances are really quite good. Bonita and Hough are very good, then Tom Cruise is shockingly good… I mean really, incredibly excellent! On top of that, in a small supporting role is Mary J. Blige, whose performance is… well, she’s Mary J. Blige!
Letting it down is any scene in which people have to speak at length, especially Russell Brand. I have nothing against him as an actor, and as a washed-up rocker type he has proven himself perfectly suited in ‘Forgetting Sarah Marshall’, but here he puts on the most stupid Brummie (person from Birmingham area in England) accent that is really unconvincing and doesn’t suit him at all. His own accent would have been fine, better in fact. There are many moments especially from Brand’s character that are crude, and some scenes are very sexed up, with apparently more being added for the home media release.
This isn’t general viewing like Mamma Mia, as that film was a huge box office winner due to repeat viewings, people going back for a second time or more as they enjoyed it so much. People who saw this only saw it once, and most thankfully stayed away, it eventually flopped at the box office. The songs are very well performed and would form a nice compilation, so to enjoy this at its best just take away the whole film, and simply get the soundtrack.