Director: Adam Shankman
Starring: Julianne Hough, Diego Boneta, Catherine Zeta Jones, Paul Giamatti, Alec Baldwin, Russell Brand and Tom Cruise
Rock of Ages focuses on a small town girl who comes to Hollywood to follow her dreams and meets a city boy who shares her aspirations. They both get a job working under Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand whose club is on the verge of bankruptcy and are relying on the most unreliable man in the music industry, Stacee Jaxx (Played by Tom Cruise) to perform a concert that will make them thousands, as long as his sleazy agent played by Paul Giamatti doesn’t take all the earnings.
Rock of Ages is a musical which consists entirely of eighties rock music, therefore if you like songs such as Don’t Stop Believing, We Built This City and I Can’t Fight This Feeling Anymore, you will enjoy this film. As a fan of this type of music, as soon as the film started and Paradise City was playing, I was won over. The soundtrack is by far the strongest part of this film however it also means that what is best about this film, is available in better quality (AKA Not “sung” by actors) for free on Youtube. Therefore if you like these songs enough that watching Tom Cruise mime to an incredibly auto-tuned version of him signing them won’t ruin them for you, then go ahead.
As with many musicals of a similar ilk, Rock of Ages is terrible when it comes to story and characters. Musicals based on previously recorded material contain stories that are nothing more than excuses to go from song to song. Therefore if you go to Rock of Ages expecting a deep, moving story thats like going to a Transformers movie expecting a lack of special effects. Therefore in the musical genre and particularly musicals such as Rock of Ages the cast and the songs are key in determining your enjoyment. For me the songs are in place and thankfully so were most of the cast.
The two lead characters and performances are the weakest element of the film’s sorry attempt at story and characters, and of the cast. It is just incredibly tedious seeing a been there done that, absolutely predictable love story that doesn’t do anything exciting. When the two of them were on screen it took me out of the film and made me aware I was watching a musical. The underlying problem throughout their scenes was their earnest approach, they didn’t seem to get the joke and didn’t have the same attitude as the supporting cast who were all just there to overact, have a sing along and some fun. It is the supporting cast who are the stars of this film and who elevate it to another level. Bryan Cranston (Of Breaking Bad and Malcolm in the Middle fame) once again is given a small, embarrassing role in a terrible film (John Carter...) I’m glad that his sensational work in Breaking Bad is getting him roles in big Hollywood movies but can somebody please give him a lead role and a character who doesn’t get pushed around by Taylor Kitsch or Catherine Zeta Jones. Speaking of Ms. Jones she is performing “villain” duties here and like the entire supporting cast has turned it right up to eleven.
Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand provide most of the film’s humour however whenever I see Russell Brand in these scripted, organized Hollywood productions I cannot help but pine for his anarchic spirit which no screenwriter can capture. It is worth noting however that Russell Brand’s accent in this film was almost more out of control than his hair. The two of them are given the funniest and best scene in the film and one of the funnier scenes of the year when they sing I Can’t Fight This Feeling Anymore. Paul Giamatti is also a delight to watch on screen for different reasons. His sleazy manager character is reminiscent of the character he played in The Ides of March, however taken to a much more over the top, campy level. He is actually the true villain of the piece and I could watch a whole film focused on his character. However, there is one performance in this film that everybody is rightfully talking about, the performance that along with the Baldwin/Brand scene, makes this film worth seeing and that is the performance of Tom Cruise.
Say what you will about Tom Cruise however you cannot question that man’s commitment. For Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol he climbed the tallest building in the world, throwing himself out of its highest windows...while in contrast Rock of Ages appears to require significantly less bravery (Then again...), it is the way in which he throws himself into the character which is equally noteworthy. Covered in tattoos, fur and alcohol, Tom Cruise struts through this film and comes out, on and off the screen, as a true rockstar. It is a character that could have been so obvious and annoying in other hands, however Cruise always seems to balance it just fine, never overplaying the characters quirkiness or alcoholism, however not overplaying the more”dramatic” movements in the character arc, if you will. It’s a legitimately great performance, trapped in a film that is equal parts awful and enjoyable, consistently being saved by its soundtrack and supporting cast.
Overall Rock of Ages is terrible if you want to judge it on story and characters. However there are two main reasons why I enjoyed watching this overly long film for the most part. I liked the songs and believe me that is the real decider with this film as 80-90% of it is the songs and I got a kick out of the supporting cast, who unlike the leads of the film, were in on the joke. Yes its cheesy, predictable, has some genuinely awful and sorry excuses for plot twists and conflict and is way too long for what it is. However a slimy Paul Giamatti, Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand signing I Can’t Fight This Feeling Anymore to each other and Tom Cruise certifying the regaining of his coolness “signing” rock songs which I like ensured that I tolerated this film.
By Movie Parliament Prime Minister,
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