Synopsis: 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, Foreigner, Journey, Poison, REO Speedwagon, Twisted Sister and more.
Release Date: June 15, 2012 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre(s): Musical, Comedy
Rock N’ Roll in the 1980s was all about big hair, tight pants, and make-up–on men. The 80s hair bands created some of the most remembered songs of many a youth, and with Rock of Ages you get the music full-blast in all of its glory; you also get a tongue-in-cheek production that forgets it is supposed to be making fun of itself. Seriousness has no place in 80s nostalgia, nor does it belong anywhere near a musical featuring the music of Foreigner, Bon Jovi, Def Leopard, and Guns N’ Roses, to name but a few. Therein lies the problem with Rock of Ages, it forgets to have fun by taking things far too seriously.
Rock of Ages begins with the oldest story in the book: a girl from Oklahoma, Sherrie (Julianne Hough of Footloose 2011), boards a bus to Hollywood to fulfill her dream of becoming a singer. She meets a boy the first night there, Drew (Diego Boneta), after being swarmed by prostitutes, witnessing a rough police arrest, and getting mugged. Welcome to The Sunset Strip in the year 1987–or any year prior for that matter. Drew gets Sherrie a job at the most famous venue on The Strip, “The Bourbon Room,” where the legendary Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise) will be performing his final show as part of the band Arsenal in order to embark on a solo-career. The Bourbon has seen better times, and club-owner Dennis Dupree (Alec Baldwin) desperately needs Jaxx to perform so he can pay off his tax debt. The problem here is that Jaxx has become difficult to deal with, and his manager Paul Gill, played with all the slithery-ness needed by Paul Giamatti, is only after the money. Jaxx is about to have an epiphany, so to speak, when he meets Rolling Stone reporter Constance Stack (Malin Akerman) and his life will never be the same. Add to this mix a crazed wife of the Mayor of Los Angeles, Patricia Whitmore (Catherine Zeta-Jones), who wants to shut down the clubs on the strip, her husband the Mayor (Bryan Cranston) who enjoys a good spanking, Mary J. Blige moonlighting as a strip-club manager, and the inclusion of a love affair between two very unlikely men. Being gay can be Rock N’ Roll too, just ask Russell Brand’s Lonny.
There is a great deal going on in Rock of Ages, all mixed up with musical interludes that do not so much move the narrative forward but simply sets the narrative in place. Character motivation is mostly found off-the-music, leaving the dialogue to convince the viewer seeing where all of the characters will end up is a rewarding experience. Alas, it is not enough. The first act is a punchy good time, poking fun at the era and setting the viewer up for the type of film this is going to be–that being far from serious. Once this is accepted you easily have fun with Rock of Ages; the music is fantastic, the dance sequences mostly well-choreographed, and the movement between opposing story lines done incredibly well. Then the middle of the second act hits and things get depressing. The hopeful stars Stacee and Drew end up whoring themselves out for money in one way or another, Stacee Jaxx relinquishes the Rock Star God pedestal to become a sad shape of a man who is completely alone. The dreams of stardom all vanquish, fame being seen as fleeting and life in Hollywood a cruel punishment. These things may be the honest truth but Rock of Ages set itself up as being fun, exciting, and a rockin’ good time. The tongue-in-cheek euphoria becomes completely lost in the overly dramatized failings of everyone. Only the occasional musical number jolts you out of the humdrum the plot has put you into, but they are too short and fleeting.
Rock of Ages dives too far into the downside of fame and having a dream, relinquishing the fun and humor the movie promised from the beginning when Cruise’s Stacee Jaxx appeared on screen in bedazzled-like chaps, a monkey called “Hey Man”, tattoos of a bat on his back and two guns pointing at his crotch, and plenty of groupies to keep him buried in bed. The Hollywood happy ending may exist at the end, providing a shining climax that sends you on your way full of renewed energy–it was getting there that was not easy. Regardless of how you feel about the film Rock of Ages it has succeeded at one thing in particular: you will desperately wish to see The Sunset Strip revived to its former glory as a place for music, for Rock N’ Roll.
It goes without saying that anyone who has a soft-spot or nostalgic pull towards the 80s hair bands music, from ballads to rock anthem’s, Rock of Ages‘ soundtrack may as well be heaven. The opening titles are introduced with Guns N’ Roses “Paradise City” blaring, as sung by Tom Cruise’s Stacee Jaxx; a character that is part GNR frontman Axl Rose, right down to the arched back and emphasized crotch. The fun does not end with “Paradise City”. Rock of Ages features covers of well-known favorite rock anthems such as Def Leopard’s “Pour Some Sugar On Me,” Poison’s “Nothin’ But A Good Time,” and Starship’s “We Built This City”, featured in a crowd-pleasing scene where cameos galore occur, just watch closely. The most shocking part may be that the re-recorded versions of the songs by the actors are not half-bad. Some more so than others but one thing Rock of Ages will not do is make your ears bleed. The same cannot be said for some of the original recordings of these songs, or live performances.
As a romance and dramatic character analysis, as much as a tongue-in-cheek film aspires to be, Rock of Ages also includes the ballads, with Poison’s “Every Rose Has It’s Thorn,” and Foreigner’s “I Want To Know What Love Is” making appearances amongst a host of others. The songs may seem corny to a new generation, but to those who lived during the 80s they are classics and never grow old. Rock of Ages‘ soundtrack may be the best karaoke mix for a party, having something for everyone and lyrics they just don’t write anymore. Regardless of how the movie may be playing out for you the music refuses to disappoint and the actors give it their all to perform up to the standards set forth by such iconic classics, like Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead or Alive.”
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Adam Shankman
- Producer(s): Jennifer GibgotGarrett GrantCarl LevinTobey MaguireScott PrisandAdam Shankman
- Screenwriter(s): Justin TherouxChris D’ArienzoAllan Loeb
- Cast: Tom Cruise (Stacee Jaxx)Diego Boneta (Drew Boley)Julianne Hough (Sherrie Christian) Alec Baldwin (Dennis Dupree)Russell Brand (Lonny)Bryan Cranston (Mike Whitmore)Catherine Zeta-Jones (Patricia Whitmore)Paul Giamatti (Paul Gill)
- Cinematographer: Bojan Bazelli
- Production Designer(s):
- Costume Designer: Rita Ryack
- Casting Director(s):
- Music Score:
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: USA