The rock scene in the 80s was a setting for all kinds of sordid debauchery and over-indulgence
scene in the 80s was a setting for all kinds of sordid debauchery and
over-indulgence: sweaty, mulleted stars binging on groupies and
cocaine while wearing leather trousers and explosive groin pyrotechnics. Of
course, Rock Of Ages portrays this phenomenon in a way that is appropriate for
its clean-cut teen demographic – it’s less sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, and
more making out, booze and rock-pop. Still, it boasts some killer tunes, and
that’s really what it’s all about, isn’t it?
It shouldn’t be, of course. This adaptation of the popular stage musical
has been made with one eye firmly on the Glee
market and, as a result, it’s all a bit too squeaky clean. Young leads Julianne Hough and Diego Boneta look like they graduated from stage school the day
before filming, gazing gushily into each other’s eyes as they belt out a highly
polished vocal and it’s all a bit too wet.
And yet, with a great supporting cast turning in hugely entertaining
performances, and a catchy cock-rock chorus never too far away, this film is a
lot more fun than it has any right to be.
Hough plays Sherrie, a wannabe singer who arrives in Los Angeles, meets
cute Boneta’s Drew and winds up working at the legendary Bourbon Room, a rock
club managed by Dennis (Alec Baldwin)
and Lonny (Russell Brand). As the
club prepares for an upcoming gig by dazed, hedonistic rock god Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise), Drew gets his own shot at
fame and the club comes under threat from the local mayor’s wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones), who leads
protests to have the venue shut down.
Between the ‘bar maid hoping for fortune and fame’ plot and the constant
musical mash-ups, Rock Of Ages comes across as Coyote Ugly meets Glee. Or Coyote Ug-Glee, if you like. It
therefore has all the makings of one of the guiltiest of guilty pleasures,
although this does mean that allowances have to be made for the very nature of
musicals. Otherwise you’ll be left exasperated at how each song is shoe-horned
in at any given moment to suit the situation, or at how Drew insists on being
shy and suffering from stage fright between all of the SINGING he does.
Still, even forgiving the phony staging of every scene (not to mention
Russell Brand’s haphazard attempt at a Brummie accent), the film remains
thoroughly watchable. This is thanks mostly to Tom Cruise’s enigmatic
performance as Stacee Jaxx, a rock singer so fully gorged on the fruits of his
stardom that he staggers about in a whiskey-fuelled state of bewilderment and
faux-spirituality. His jaded lifestyle is the perfect foil to the wide-eyed
hope of Sherrie and Drew and is, frankly, a lot more fun to watch.
While this alone doesn’t quite make up for the film’s vacuous stars,
when combined with some great comic moments from Brand and Baldwin, as well as
some truly entertaining choreography, Rock Of Ages is both nauseating and
entertaining in equal measure. It may not be a movie that gets stuck in your
head for hours after, but it’s easy to get caught up in the film’s many
melodies all the same.