Since I was born in 1995, I missed the 1980s by almost five and a half years, and if Adam Shankman’s “Rock of Ages” is any indication, I certainly didn’t miss much except for big hair and really loud music.
Shankman’s latest directorial affair is a big-screen adaptation of the popular Broadway musical, and although it features a stellar cast, at the end of the day it turns out to be another ho-hum entry in Shankman’s not-so illustrious career. Shankman has directed such titles as “Bringing Down the House,” “The Pacifier,” and “Cheaper By The Dozen 2.”
The film centers around small town girl Sherrie (Julianne Hough) and city boy Drew (Diego Boneta), who meet and fall in love while chasing their dreams of stardom on the Sunset Strip in 1987 Hollywood. Rounding out the cast are Alec Baldwin, who plays bar-owner Dennis Dupree, Russell Brand, who plays Dupree’s assistant Lonny, Catherine Zeta-Jones as rock n’ roll hater Patricia Whitmore, Tom Cruise as haggard rocker Stacee as Jaxx, and Paul Giamatti as Jaxx’s sleazy manager Paul Gill.
Over the course of the film’s overly long two-hour run time, the story progressed as its stars sing classic rock hits from the 80s, ranging from Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead or Alive” and the Scorpions’ “Rock You Like A Hurricane” to Guns N’ Roses’ “Paradise City” and, of course, Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’.”
Hough and Boneta’s performances are average, mostly due to screenwriters Allen Loeb, Justin Theroux and Chris D’Arienzo’s fairly poor script, which rushes the development of Sherrie and Drew’s relationship. Although their relationship is supposed to be the film’s main storyline, it fades into the background about halfway through and is overruled by Tom Cruise’s drunken, aging rock star. Jaxx is a withered drunk holding onto every last bit of youth he possibly can, and Cruise’s performance is fun to watch.
Giamatti is fun to watch in his small role as well. However, Baldwin and Brand are the film’s true scene stealers. Although they may not have the most screen time, both actors’ characters are relatable and hilarious. They are easily the best part of the film.
Since the film is a musical, the soundtrack is supposed to be the film’s true star. Unfortunately, that is not the case. While some numbers, like Boneta’s rendition of Twisted Sister’s “I Wanna Rock” are quite enjoyable, many of them seem like they were recorded at a Hollywood karaoke party. Which is mainly the case with “Don’t Stop Believin.” Although meant to be the film’s climactic number, it felt as if all of the cast members got together and started jamming out with the radio. This is perhaps once again due to the rushed feeling of the script. Many of the numbers begin without any setup and are nearly completely out of context, and before audience members can take the time to enjoy the number they just witnessed, a new one begins. Add dull, stale choreography on top of this and it nearly fails where a musical should succeed.
At the end of the day, “Rock of Ages” seemed like a really long episode of the television show “Glee.” The acting was usually mediocre at best, and the cast practically slaughtered every song they sang. Needless to say, I’m not a fan of the show. However, my 14-year-old sister, who is a self-proclaimed “gleek,” loves the show and thoroughly enjoyed the movie.
So, if “Glee” is your thing, check out “Rock of Ages.” If it isn’t, I would wait until “Rock” is available at the Redbox. I’d pay a dollar to see it, but not much more than that.