Movies: Rock of Ages

Starring: Julianne Hough, Diego Boneta, Tom Cruise, Alec Baldwin, Russel Brand
Directed By: Adam Shankman
Written By: Justin Theroux, Chris D'Arienzo, Allan Loeb
Warner Bros., 2012
PG-13; 123 min
2 stars (out of 5)


This movie could also be called How Tom Cruise Stacee Jaxx Got His Groove Back. But that's only one part of the multi-layered plot that probably worked better on a theatre stage than it does here, despite the production values and multiple locations.

Set in 1987, the stories include that of Sherri and Drew, aspiring rock singers who work at a Hollywood bar called The Bourbon Room. Then there's the story of the mayor and his wife who want to shut the bar down because they feel rock and roll promotes evil thoughts and deeds. (Different, as I understand, from the staged version, wherein the bar is in danger of being torn down by a developer?) Really, it's just the wife who wants to rid the world of sex, drugs, and rock and roll, and of Stacee Jaxx in particular; meanwhile the mayor, as cardboard a character as any other in this film, carries on a clandestine affair. And then, certainly, there's the Stacee Jaxx plot line about a wayward rock star looking for the real thing when it comes to love.

With so much going on, none of the multitudinous threads in this film are done particularly well or with any real depth. Rock of Ages is all show; it's a soundtrack with some caricatures thrown over it. Any one of the plot lines might have been interesting if fully explored, but none of them are. Rock of Ages relies on stereotypes as shorthand for real personalities, therefore avoiding (so the writers think anyway) the need to create compelling characters with anything unique to say. Even from the nostalgia angle, this film serves up the stalest pieces of the 80s: the music, the clothes, the pedantically plotted films (which is what this is).

Why two stars then? Because there were, in fact, at least one or two entertaining moments. And because, although the soundtrack was relatively rote and offered little in the way of "deep cuts," I liked a lot of the songs. I figure since this is a musical, that must at least count for something.

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