Rock of Ages (2012) Adam Shankman

Production Budget: $75 million

Worldwide Gross: $56 million

I’m sure I’ve long since killed a good portion of what little cool I had by admitting I like Glee.  But while its popularity may be overstated, I can at least make a case for why it is admired unlike, say, Twilight.  I think it is a kind of evolution of Saved by the Bell teen goofiness combined with the fun factor of doing big productions of current pop hits.  It is a fresh and energetic take a midst a field of generic blandness.

I can at least give you my feelings upon seeing the trailers for Rock of Ages.  It feels like when your parents try to use current slang in an effort to try to sound “cool“ for their kids but it ends up making them look even more square.  I see Russell Brand, Alec Baldwin, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Paul Giamatti, and Bryan Cranston (yes, even Bryan Cranston) trying desperately to capitalize on this Glee/High School Musical fad.  But instead of coming off like cool superstars, people like Brand and Baldwin (who have a duet in the film) come off like the Griswalds singing Mockingbird to their kids on summer vacation.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Rock of Ages is about young Drew (Diego Boneta) and Sherrie (Julianne Hough) who work at a club in Hollywood run by Dennis (Alec Baldwin).  Drew and Sherrie have feelings for one another and are trying to make it in the music business.  Dennis‘ club is going bankrupt but one concert may turn things around when rock god Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise) is doing one last concert with his current band.  Meanwhile Mayor Whitmore (Cranston) and his prudish wife Patricia (Zeta-Jones) are trying to close the club.

One part where this movie suffers, I guess is an observation universal to movies and not just this one, is that it doesn’t have any interesting characters.  I’m not really exaggerating when all the characters can be summed up in a short phrase.  Dennis is trying to save the club and that’s it.  I can’t describe what he’s like or how he is going to act in a situation.  He is just Alec Baldwin in a bad wig trying to save his club.  Drew wants to be a rock star.  Sherrie is in love with Drew.  Nothing changes during the course of the movie and absolutely no depth is added.  I’ll even compare this to another Glee inspired movie this year which is Pitch Perfect.  Pitch Perfect is a very fun movie, and it is not necessarily about the musical numbers.  Effort was put into telling jokes and working on characters.  Because when I say I want characters I’m not wanting Shakespearean work done, but I need something to connect with.  Anna Kendrick’s Beca has a goal and she has a flaw which is holding her back.  The conflict is about her overcoming her own problems of connecting with people.  Its not epic, but its all I need to make me care about what happens to her in a movie about competing a capella groups.

But more specific to Rock of Ages is it doesn’t go far enough given the topic of rock and roll excess.  If there is anything to take from things like Spinal Tap or Tenacious D is rock (especially the 80’s hair metal) is ripe for mockery.  The only person who seems to be aware of this in Rock of Ages is Tom Cruise.  His spots are the only good parts as he knows this needs a hammy performance.  But even his over the top performance is not quite over enough if you’ve seen the Decline of Western Civilization or read The Dirt.  Everyone is playing this far too bland and, well, un-Metal.  It is quite telling they choose songs like ‘We built this city‘ by Starship as their rock anthem since it is one of the most anti-rock songs ever.  They might as well be singing kumbaya for how controversial they are.  They use the term ‘Rock‘ when really they want ‘Pop‘ because Pop is less offensive to the younger generation than mocking/paying homage to true rock.

This movie really taxed my patience.  Despite having no characters and a paper thin plot, the film makers have pushed this to about two hours.  What actually makes things worse is they add far too many songs for this musical.  I swear it is not even two minutes after a song has finished that we get another one.  It makes things all the more transparent you have nothing else than the Rock Band D-List to cover for having no other material for this piece of crap.

A few other miscellaneous notes before I wrap this up.  Alec Baldwin singing is frankly embarrassing  Julianne Hough sings like she is a lost member of the Chipettes (you seriously wont get that thought out of your head if you do see this movie), and Russell Brand is the anti-funny who never needs to be seen again in any kind of media.  Rock of Ages didn’t need to suck as bad as it did.  At its core it is a musical version of Empire Records which could have been entertaining enough.  Everything about this though screams cheap cash in and for once, the general audience didn’t bite on it.  The characters are beyond bland, the plot is non-existent, the songs get annoying at times, and there is a noticeable lack of fun to be had.  Fuck Rock of Ages, but by all means, see Pitch Perfect.

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