Rock of Ages

Director: Adam Shankman
Starring: Julianne Hough, Diego Boneta, Tom Cruise, Bryan Cranston, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Russell Brand
Distributor: Roadshow Films
Runtime: 123 mins. Reviewed in Jun 2012
| JustWatch |
Rating notes: Sexual references and infrequent coarse language

This movie is an adaptation of the rock musical of the same name that was a big hit on Off-Broadway, New York in 2006. Subsequently, the musical has been staged successfully in Australia.

The story tracks an out-of-town girl, Sherrie Christian (Julianne Hough), who lands a job as a waitress in The Bourbon Room, a music-bar in Los Angeles. She falls in love with Drew Boley (Diego Boneta), who works there. Sherrie secretly wants to be a singer, and Drew wants just as much to be a rock star, and the film is all about the rock metal era of the 1980s.

Russell Brand plays the manager of The Bourbon Room. Bryan Cranston is the Mayor of Los Angeles, and Catherine Zeta-Jones plays his wife, Patricia, who wants to shut The Bourbon Room down, because she can’t stand Rock and Roll being played in Los Angeles any more. She leads a poster-brigade saying “Heavy Metal is Filth”, and wants to restore Los Angeles to its former glory. Tom Cruise plays Drew’s rock idol, Stacee Jaxx, who is the lead singer of a rock group, called “Arsenal”. Cruise worked five hours every day for months to take the part, and sings live in the production.

The whole cast of the movie is in it for “Nothin’ but a Good Time”, the tag-line for the movie, and the film offers a heavy bout of hedonism. What made this musical so popular in the States is evident in the film. The original production was a trendy musical comedy about drugs, sex, and rock and roll, and the film showcases each one of them vividly. The rock music of the 80s, together with its fashion and decadence take over the film, and high octane performances come from all those involved. The film is an entertaining spoof on Rock music and the age of Rock, and clichés abound.

The singing of Cruise is surprisingly good, and he intentionally over-plays the rock idol super-star. The dancing is fuelled by creative choreography that keeps the pulse and energy of the movie racing. Catherine Zeta-Jones proved her musical worth in the multi-academy award-wining “Chicago” (2002), and she shows the same talent here.

The lead fresh-faced players, Julianne Hough and Diego Boneta sing and dance well, carrying off key musical numbers, such as “Waiting for a Girl Like You” (Julianne Hough, and Diego Boneta), “I Wanna Rock” (Diego Boneta), and “Rock You Like a Hurricane” (Julianne Hough, with Tom Cruise). Catherine Zeta-Jones does her part in well-known numbers (for musical aficionados), such as “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” (danced provocatively in a church), and “We’re not Gonna Take It” – the heavy metal hit from the “Twisted Sister” rock group in the 80s. Jones slips easily into her predictable transformation, and packs a punch when she is on the screen.

The drama is light-on, the plot is thin, the music is raucous, but the atmosphere is intense, and the spoofs come fast. If one wants to be entertained by rock music from a by-gone era done well, this movie does that. The direction of the film by Adam Shankman is spirited, and the talent behind the singing and dancing is abundantly evident. The film never dramatically captures, or expresses, the raw emotional power of the Rolling Stones in Scorsese’s “Shine a Light” (2008), but it ensures a vivid experience for rock-music fans, and has a satirical bent to appeal to the older generation.

The use of quality cinematography and authentic-looking set-direction give the film a distinctive stamp. This is not a musical to win coveted awards, as “Chicago” did in 2002 and “Cabaret” did in 1972. But the film is a lively, satirical transfer of a popular and successful musical from the stage to the cinema screen.

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