Friday, June 15, 2012

REVIEW: Rock of Ages

I had worried that Rock of Ages would remind me of my high school years, in that I would be watching people I really like singing a lot of music I really hate. Read: Hair metal can suck it.

That said, the problem with Rock of Ages is not that it celebrates hair metal. Despite what the ads may tell you, this movie isn't really hair-metal centric. If, for instance, "We Built This City" is hair metal, then I'm Grace Slick. The soundtrack is more a grab bag of an "I Love the 80s" Internet radio station. Some of the music is good, some of it isn't. I'll take "Pour Some Sugar on Me," but I don't have much patience for people who labor under the delusion that "Every Rose has its Thorn" is a great song.

But I didn't dislike Rock of Ages because it fondly recalls a decade as vacuous as Paris Hilton. I disliked Rock of Ages because I really don't care for Ken and Barbie dolls. And that's what the two lead characters of this movie are.

I don't mean to disparage Julianne Hough. She may be playing a plastic character, but at least she has a winning screen presence. That's the opposite of the dullard male lead played by the charisma-free Diego Bonita. When I can't care about the main couple, I can't get into the movie.

It's a shame,because most of the actors are actually quite good and throw themselves into the movie with gusto. Alec Baldwin and Russel Brand play off each other well as a club owner and his flunkie, with Brand being especially funny because he ad-libs left and right. Catherine Zeta-Jones has a nothing part as a PMRC-type zealot, but she at least puts her songs across with verve. Malin Akerman is sexy/funny, bearing more than a passing resemblance to MTV's Nina Blackwood. And Tom Cruise again travels the Tropic Thunder path of a zany supporting part. Director Adam Shankman told Cruise to play up everyone's worst perception of - Tom Cruise. And he delivers.

But that was one of the few smart moves Shankman made. He directs the movie with the color-coding of an exploding candy store and the attention span of a gnat. There may be a lot of big hair in this movie, but I missed the fleeter footing of Shankman's Hairspray. And the screenplay, based on the stage musical, is as flat as a stage.

Some audience members at my screening seemed to be surprised they were watching a full-on musical and not a concert movie. But even people who are not averse to musicals may be disappointed that the title song is thrown away, and that the movie doesn't take full advantage of the fact that the lead character's name is Sherrie.

After all, what can you say when a movie's climactic number, "Don't Stop Believin'" was performed with more panache by the cast of Glee?



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