Review: Rock of Ages

daniel cohen throws the thumbs down instead of the horns up…

Plot: Set in 1987, the story follows a small town girl (Julianne Hough) who moves to Los Angeles in the hopes of making it as a singer. She gets a job at a famous heavy metal bar where she falls for a bartender (Diego Boneta). Meanwhile, the club they work at is the target of a conservative mayoral candidate’s wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones), and the only man who can save it is legendary, burnt out rocker Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise).

 

I love the hair metal music that permeates throughout this movie, but seriously, I could have just stayed home and listed to my iPod. They do absolutely nothing special with these songs. Do I really need to hear Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand sing “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll?” Or how about Paul Giamatti’s rousing rendition of “Here I Go Again?” And I’m sure some of you are saying to yourselves, ‘hey, that sounds fun.’ I promise you, this film takes any potential those performances may have, and just presents them in the most boring generic way possible. The director (Adam Shankman) must have been asleep during this, because this movie is completely jumbled and lifeless.

Now the first fifteen minutes aren’t bad. It’s nothing great, but there’s at least some energy to the performances. Alec Baldwin is pretty likable, Catherine Zeta-Jones is giving it her all, and Tom Cruise is perfectly cast as this eccentric burnt out rock legend. And then we have Russell Brand. He’s fine I guess, but I dislike Brand so much that I admit I can’t think objectively about him. There’s a scene towards the end where he makes a speech, and I swear I couldn’t understand one word he said.

The problem with this movie though is that there are just too many damn characters and plot-lines. For example, I really enjoyed Cruise’s Stacee Jaxx, and liked his character arc of being so deified that he’s completely lost touch with what music even means anymore. Cruise plays the perfect blend of comedy and sincerity. But it gets completely lost in the shuffle due to the 500 other things going on. It’s a complete mess as the film just bounces around from character to character. And unfortunately, the primary characters of Sherrie (Hough) and Drew (Boneta) are the two most uninteresting. There are so many better actors in this film, yet we have to spend a lot of time with the two most overacted performances.

 

And each scene takes forever to make its point! I get this is a musical, but do we really need 2-3 songs before we move on to the next sequence? Everything is so drawn out. There’s a scene where a columnist for Rolling Stone played by Malin Akerman interviews Stacee Jaxx. We know right from the start where this scene is going, but it takes FOREVER to get there. We have to endure endless unfunny jokes with Jaxx’s pet monkey…it’s painful. And this is what almost made me walk out of the film. These scenes are so droning and boring, that you just pray they’re going to end soon. And there is no shortage of useless characters either. Mary J. Blige plays the owner of a strip club who comes in towards the end, but serves no purpose, yet we spend so much time with her.

I also don’t know what tone this movie is shooting for. I know it’s a musical, and at first it’s clearly a comedy, but as the film goes along, it just seems to shift. To be honest, I think the comedy in this film is so dry and non-existent, that it feels like the genre changes because of it. There’s even a point towards the end where there’s this big revelation about Dennis (Baldwin) and Lonny (Brand) that is completely portrayed in an inconsistent way. They sort of make it serious, but then shift into zany mode, but then take it seriously again, that I’m just left confused.

Except for the two leads, the acting is solid all around. There are some interesting ideas that could have been explored more, such as the death of heavy metal and the transition into pop music, but nothing is given enough time because it’s so boggled down by multiple plot-lines and characters. Bryan Cranston was another completely wasted and unnecessary character. While some of the songs were kind of fun, this film gets progressively boring. It’s just a lifeless movie that has to fall at the hands of the director. The one awesome thing this movie does do though is pretty much confirm “Don’t Stop Believing” is the greatest song ever…so it’s got that going for it.

Rating: 4 out of 10 (Really Bad)

Daniel Cohen is the hard-boiled Film Editor for the Pop Break. Besides reviews, Daniel writes box office predictions, Gotham reviews and Oscar coverage. He can also be found on the Breakcast. If Daniel was sprayed by Scarecrow’s fear toxin, it would be watching Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen on a non-stop loop.