Rock of Ages (2012)

13 June 2012

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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, Joan Jett, Journey, Foreigner, Bon Jovi, Night Ranger, REO Speedwagon, Pat Benatar, Twisted Sister, Poison, Whitesnake, and more.

The movie musical stars Julianne Hough (“Burlesque”), with actor/singer Diego Boneta in his feature film debut, Russell Brand (“Arthur,” “Get Him to the Greek”), Oscar® nominee Paul Giamatti (“Cinderella Man”), Academy Award® winner Catherine Zeta-Jones (“Chicago”), Malin Akerman (“The Proposal”), R&B queen Mary J. Blige and multiple Emmy®-winner Bryan Cranston (TV’s “Breaking Bad,” “The Lincoln Lawyer”), with Oscar® nominees Alec Baldwin (“The Cooler”) and Tom Cruise (“Born on the Fourth of July”).

Shankman directs “Rock of Ages” from a screenplay by Justin Theroux and Chris D’Arienzo and Allan Loeb, based on D’Arienzo’s musical of the same name.  The film is being produced by Matthew Weaver, Scott Prisand, Carl Levin, Tobey Maguire, Garrett Grant and Jennifer Gibgot, with Toby Emmerich, Richard Brener, Michael Disco and Samuel J. Brown, Hillary Butorac Weaver, Janet Billig Rich, Shankman and D’Arienzo serving as executive producers.

Rounding out the “Rock of Ages” creative team are director of photography Bojan Bazelli (“Hairspray”), production designer Jon Hutman (“It’s Complicated”), editor Emma Hickox (“A Walk To Remember”), Oscar®-nominated costume designer Rita Ryack (“How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” “Hairspray”), Grammy-nominated music supervisor Matt Sullivan (“Dreamgirls,” “Nine”), executive and Emmy Award-winning choreographer Mia Michaels (“So You Think You Can Dance”).  The original score is by Adam Anders and Peer Astrom (TV’s “Glee”).

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"Not enough guns, too many roses..."

Having taken Hairspray from Broadway to the big screen, Adam Shankman has returned with yet another adaptation of a triumphant stage play, as he brings the hugely successful jukebox musical Rock of Ages to the silver screen.

Set in 1987 when classic rock dominated much of the US charts, we follow the story of small town girl Sherrie (Julianne Hough) who decides to move to Hollywood to pursue her dreams of becoming a star. However, imminent stardom seems somewhat more likely for rocker Drew (Diego Boneta), a part-time musician, and part-time barman at the illustrious venue The Bourbon Room, who falls in love with Sherrie as soon as he lays his eyes on her.

The pair instantly fall for one another, yet whilst their love blossoms Sherrie becomes increasingly concerned that any potential fame would drive Drew away from her, whilst Drew is more concerned about his partner's relationship with mega star Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise). Meanwhile, Jaxx is facing issues of his own as the prima donna rock star falls out with his manager Paul (Paul Giamatti), the Bourbon Room manager Dennis (Alec Baldwin), whilst also facing a backlash from the mayor's wife Patricia (Catherine Zeta-Jones) as she vies to ban his music, taking offence to his nonchalant and somewhat controversial approach to life.

Despite being set amidst a period of time and within a community where sex, drugs and rock'n'roll took precedence, Rock of Ages is far too drippy and mawkish, without edge - focusing too greatly on the soppy romantic plot-line, rather than exploring the more seedy aspects to the rock scene, which would have certainly made for a more enjoyable and intriguing experience for the viewer. Not enough guns, too many roses. Metaphorically speaking of course, I'm not a weird sadist.

Personally, the main reason I struggled to fully enjoy and appreciate this picture is because I am not a fan of the music at all. The musical features classic rock songs from the likes of Journey and Guns N' Roses and my irrational disdain towards such a genre of music certainly goes aginst the enjoyment of this film, which almost works as a celebration of the music and the period in which it's set. However if you are a fan, you are bound to have a good time with this one.

Shankman ensures the picture is very tongue-in-cheek and good fun, evidently aware of its overstated nature, immensely playing up to it in the process. However I don't believe Shankman is completely aware of how bad this film can be, as at points it could be labelled as a parody or satire, yet it certainly isn't. Underneath this kitsch, immoderate film is definitely a film maker and group of performers who think they're actually in something worthwhile. 

The actors clearly look as though they are enjoying themselves however, and their playful merriment is infectious. Cruise epitomises such a sentiment as the stand-out performer as Stacee Jaxx, completely coming to terms with the arrogant, narcissistic nature of his role. A little too comfortably perhaps. Yet in a similar vein to Tropic Thunder, the film makers certainly overplay his cameo role, taking it as far as it could possibly be stretched.

Giamatti is also impressive as always, yet unfortunately the same can't be said for newcomer Boneta, or Russell Brand playing Lonny, an assistant to Baldwin's Dennis. For someone so unique and outlandish, how does Brand continuously manage to find roles where he can just play himself? His accent is absolutely woeful too as he manages to mix between cockney and Birmingham, even within the same sentences. You can take the boy out of Essex...

Rock of Ages is a harmless production, good fun but also cringe-worthy and embarrassingly over-the-top, not to mention the fact it is completely, and unnecessarily long. However I'd be a liar if I said the songs hadn't been playing in my head ever since watching this film, though this is arguably another factor that goes against it.

Ending on the karaoke classic Don't Stop Believing by Journey, it provokes a quite unusually familiar sensation, as the song that famously concludes almost every single night out and party also concludes this picture, giving me an incredible sense of finality and the need to just go home and sleep. Which is exactly what I did.

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