Three years ago, a Broadway musical hit New York; Rock of Ages captured the best and the worst of 1980’s Hollywood. Written by Chris D’Arienzo, the musical made its way to the silver screen with the help of musical director, Adam Shankman, the same person behind Hairspray. Shankman, however takes a different approach, far from the preppy good times of Hairspray into the more hardcore genre of metal and glam rock.
Rock of Ages was just so over the top that it pushed the vote for an overall 2.5 rating to scrape a 3. The switch from “Not so great” to “Great” is because of the following reasons:
First of all, the performances were as ridiculous as they were entertaining. Julianne Hough (Footloose, Burlesque) plays young and optimistic Sherrie, who moves into the Paradise City, Los Angeles, California to live where the action happens, hoping to get a big break as a singer. Along the way, she meets Drew, played by Diego Boneta (90210, Pretty Little Liars), a waiter for the renowned Bourbon Club on Sunset Strip. The two definitely have chemistry, both physical and vocal. In other words, Sherrie is the small-town girl (from Oklahoma) and Drew is the city boy (from LA) that the song “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey revolves around, and yes, that is the show’s main theme. Do not, however, be disheartened. The Rock of Ages cover (of any song in the movie) is definitely better than the Glee renditions. Standout performances include Mary J. Blige in “Any Way You Want It” by Journey and the mash-up of “More Than Words” by Extreme and “Heaven” by Warrant.
Sherrie and Drew, the two strangers in the night, hit it off in a whirlwind romance while working at The Bourbon Club. No, I am not referring to the “falling in love montage” that has already run its course in cinema. I am referring to The Bourbon Club, the dirtier LA version of the Abbey Road Studios where rock stars get their first records done, and where all the hot gigs happen. It is a melting pot of booze, loud music, and screaming fans, and it is also the stage for the concert of the greatest rock icon of that time, Stacee Jaxx, played by Tom Cruise (Mission Impossible, The Last Samurai). The owner of the club, Dennis Dupree, played by Alec Baldwin (30 Rock, The Departed), and his right-hand man, Lonny, portrayed by Russel Brand (Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Arthur), make a hilarious tandem; their screen time never fails to click with the audience.
The third reason is the use of Stacee Jaxx, Patricia Whitmore, and Dennis Dupree. Patricia Whitmore, played by Catherine Zeta-Jones (The Legend of Zorro, Chicago), is the uptight wife of the Mayor of LA who vowed to rid the streets of wretched Rock and Roll, which has been called anti-Christ. The casting department threw in a really interesting mix of actors for the supporting characters, with roles very different from what the actors normally take. Tom Cruise has always been an action hero, Alec Baldwin is usually in suits, and although Catherine Zeta-Jones has a musical background with Chicago, we have not seen her in that setting for a long time.
The movie is fun to watch because it defamiliarizes us from the conventions we have associated with these actors. Though it was very awkward to see Cruise, Baldwin, and Zeta-Jones onscreen at first, they did manage to break into the characters.
Who would have though that Cruise could play Stacee Jaxx, eternally intoxicated rock star/that cowboy wanted dead or alive; Baldwin could play Dennis with the unquaffed mane and studded bracelets; and Zeta-Jones could play the middle-aged suppressed wild child.
Last, the movie all comes down to the big three – Sex, Drugs, and Rock ‘n’ Roll. The film’s storyline is lacking, and characters do not have depth. The plot is very straightforward, quite predictable, and the attempts at making the characters grow into more than one dimensional beings are rushed, if not forced. The entire movie is a two hour piece, but perhaps only 25 percent was dedicated to the actual writing. The remaining 75 percent engulfs the audience in perfectly shot concert or music video footage that really is worthy of praise. Now, as for the sex and the drugs, the movie was rated R-13 in the country. There are no scenes with illegal substances, just tons of alcohol and its repercussions.
Rock of Ages was just what its tagline promised: “Nothin’ but a good time.” Do not watch this movie if you’re after plot twists, engaging dialogue, or reflective moments on the meaning of life or love. Watch this movie because you want to ride on the consistent high note of fun with some of the greatest songs that shaped a generation.
If you want to draw more comparisons between the film and stage version of Rock of Ages, you could catch both right here in Manila. The movie is currently out in all major cinemas. If you woudld rather see it live and on stage, check out the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium at RCBC Plaza, Makati City. Catch their performances on June 17 and 23 (3 PM; 8 PM), June 29 (8PM), June 30 and July 7 (3 PM; 8 PM), and July 8 (8 PM).