“Rock of Ages” tells the story of small town girl Sherrie and city boy Drew, who meet on the Sunset Strip while pursuing their Hollywood dreams. Their rock ‘n’ roll romance is told through the heart-pounding hits of Def Leppard, Joan Jett, Journey, Foreigner, Bon Jovi, Night Ranger, REO Speedwagon, Pat Benatar, Twisted Sister, Poison, Whitesnake, and more.
The problem with this idea is that there is little story to back up the musical numbers. Plot lines are loosely established but none of them actually grab hold. It is hard to put a finger on why, but it is likely because of the constant distraction of watching huge Hollywood stars singing karaoke. That is exactly what the majority of the film feels like.
Rock of Ages certainly does a wonderful job of setting the stage. Director and choreographer Adam Shankman creates the vibe and feel of the eighties down to a tee. Big hair, tons of hair spray and neon colors are all in place as each star seemingly takes a turn at singing the biggest anthems of the time. Interestingly, the best performances in my view are by the less known stars such as Julianne Hough and Diego Boneta. The few times they are able to bogart the main stage, the movie improves a great deal.
Virtually everyone that sees this movie has a comment about Tom Cruise who plays a Rock Legend named Stacee Jaxx. Cruise is playing a superstar that gets talked into playing The Bourbon Room. This was where he got his start in the movie, and he is trying to help save it from bankruptcy.
Cruise does a well enough job in the role, but to be honest I never felt comfortable watching him. Though he looks incredible for his age, he just did not come across to me as a legitimately awesome rock god. Some folks disagree and liked him in the role, but for me it came across as a stunt and nothing more. Tom Cruise did, however, surprise me with his vocals… Not bad at all assuming they were not piped in.
There are plenty of reasons to like Rock of Ages as well. The players involved are certainly attractive enough. Tom Cruise, Julianne Hough, Diego Boneta, Alec Baldwin and Catherine Zeta-Jones are all easy on the eyes to most men and women. In their rock roles they are entertaining at their core. It is funny in a “look at Tom Cruise in a funny costume kicking and singing” kind of way. The music is great if you love the era and it is certainly loud like we listened to it back in the day.
The negatives are obvious however. The roles are too thin for Shankman to work his magic here. He was awesome in Hairspray, but the roles and story is lacking too much here to hit a similar homerun. With a thin plot, the plethora of big time names that dot the scene can do little more than occasionally make the screen simmer with their individual talents. Isolated scenes take the place of extended storyline buildup, and the viewer wishes for that as they watch. The movie is also far too long. By the time the credits roll, it feels as though the movie should have ended four songs back.
Despite the many shortcomings of the movie, those that pine for the eighties would adore it. Rock of Ages delivers you to another time and place quite well and allows you to bang your head quite nicely. Though it falls short on many levels technically, the familiarity for me was quite enough to have a good time while I watched.
That is the point of a movie, right? I was entertained, though not for the reasons that we usually look for in a movie.