The Rocker (2008)
Dir: Peter Cattaneo
The only thing this has in common with the director’s most notable film ‘The Full Monty’ is a bit of bottom-baring as a key story point, other than that it’s an entirely different type of film and not in a bad way!
Having been booted from his band just before they achieved mega-stardom decades earlier, mulleted drummer Fish (Rainn Wilson) ends up joining his teen nephew Matt’s (Josh Gad) band along with a rocker chick (Emma Stone) and promising songwriter Curtis (Teddy Geiger). After a video of him rehearsing in the buff goes viral, Fish gets a second chance at the fame he was previously denied.
Peter Cattaneo certainly hasn’t stuck to just one genre of film, this is so completely different from ‘The Full Monty’, that film was rooted in social issues about unemployment, the changing face of industry and the role of men in the workplace and family whereas this is a fun ‘living the dream’ comedy with some sweat jokes and musical performances.
As I see it, there are two sides to the story. Primarily it’s about a washed up rocker given a second chance, the other and possibly more interesting side is that it’s also about a group of teens gaining rapid fame and how this affects them. Both of these elements are movie material and have been in the past. One you might think of for example is ‘School of Rock’, but rather than a rocker creating a band to help himself, this time the failed rocker joins a teen band initially to help them.
I think more could have been made of some of the more interesting elements of the story. The age generation gap between Fish and his bandmates could have been developed more reflectively so as to actually highlight the ways that they view and handle rapid fame, but a lot of this is wasted on being used solely for comedic effect. If the film was re-focused it would have the potential to be more akin to ‘Almost Famous’ and really show the destructive nature of fame and the music industry, though that’s clearly not the movie it wanted to be.
The movie benefits greatly from having an amazing cast, full of actors who are either still doing well or doing even better than they were in 2008. Most notably there’s Emma Stone, and Bradley Cooper in a wig. I think the casting director hit gold when they cast Emma Stone, she is an ideal rock chick and very well cast as Amelia. In my head I kept thinking that you could almost imagine that after this she grew into the character she played in ‘Birdman’ who had been to rehab and unsure of what she wanted from life. Being a comedy though, the film relies on the comic actors and performances to get the laughs, and the older band lead by Will Arnett is a superb ensemble of funny actors clearly enjoying the freedom that their roles allowed. I’m no massive fan of Rainn Wilson but he fits the role so convincingly, and as you can see from the poster he epitomises ‘washed-up mulleted drummer’.
It’s not a brilliant film and doesn’t have the charm and brilliance of ‘School of Rock’ but it does have some funny moments, a really superb cast and just to enjoy some of these actors in different early roles it was worth 90 minutes of my time. It seems to have been (for now) the end of Cattaneo’s feature directing but it’s nothing he should be ashamed of, unlike Fish’s mullet!