So is Rock of Ages any good?

Rock of Ages is the silver screen version of the stage production; which means you get more songs in this Hollywood movie than the average Bollywood production. And that is a great thing if you grew up surrounded by late 80s/early 90s rock music. Hair metal, punk rock, pop rock…thudding drums, ringing synths and delightfully roaring guitars abound in this straightforward story about two young’uns chasing the rock n’ roll dream.

From Wikipedia research it appears that the structure of the movie is different from the original stage production (I suppose huge movie stars just don’t allow their characters to behave that badly) so the movie is an over-simplified version of an already thin plot.

That doesn’t matter. Because you go for the music and stay for the performances.

When ‘Paradise City’ played over the opening credits I had goose bumps. And that excitement returned every time I recognized another song from my misguided (clueless more likely, but misguided sounds cool, no?) youth. The title of the movie comes from a Def Leppard song—a band that is very well represented musically in the movie—and the film is about Sherrie (Julianne Hough) and Drew (Diego Boneta) and their finding (and losing) love, the pursuit of fame, and the highs and lows of existing in anonymity in late-80s Hollywood.

She’s the girl fresh off the bus from small town America; he is the guy who works at the legendary club he someday hopes to perform at. Alec Baldwin runs that legendary club, a place called The Bourbon, and Russell Brand plays his trusty sidekick.

I suppose no rock n’ roll tale is complete without a villain and in this case that notional villain is Patricia (Catherine Zeta-Jones) the activist wife of Mike Whitmore (Bryan Cranston), the man trying to get elected Mayor of Los Angeles by cleaning up ‘the Strip’. She decides that the best way to do this is by shutting down The Bourbon.

Naturally the club is also in financial trouble, trouble it can be pulled out of by the appearance of seminal band Arsenal fronted by the enigmatic Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise) whose presence can really fill up a club. So what happens when the aspiring singer, the small town girl, the troubled rock star, a Rolling Stone reporter (Malin Akerman) and a group of crusading harpies congregate around a legendary club?

Lots of fun music, that’s what.

This movie lives and dies by its soundtrack. Over the course of its runtime you will hear ‘Wanted Dead Or Alive’, ‘We Built This City’, ‘Don’t Stop Believing’, ‘Hit Me With Your Best Shot’, ‘I Wanna Rock’, ‘Every Rose Has Its Thorn’, ‘I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll’ and many other songs that just…soar, as they roar.

This movie also transcends its pitiful storyline because of the performances of cast members like Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand, whose quirky relationship nicely counterbalances the photogenic young leads. Paul Giamatti does another fine job as the rock star’s oily manager. But the real star of this piece is Tom Cruise as Stacee Jaxx, the Glenn Danzig/Axl Rose hybrid with a pet monkey named Hey Man and hulking bruiser bodyguards. He is clearly totally committed to the ridiculousness of his character and right from his first appearance in a thong and chaps (yeah, you cannot unsee that image once eyes have been laid upon it) to his facility with the lyrics of several rock classics as well as the neck of an electric guitar, the man is a rock star. This is why he gets paid the big bucks. This is why the name Tom Cruise is still a global box office draw. It is really quite something to watch the man amp up the smart insanity of Stacee Jaxx.

I’d totally go watch Rock of Ages again. To see Hey Man punch Paul. To watch that initial acoustic guitar-only rendition of ‘Don’t Stop Believing’. To hum along to that mash up of ‘More Than Words’ and ‘Heaven’. And I would cringe at the ridiculousness of the plot (especially that bit with the ‘gentleman’s club’ run by Mary J. Blige), the dialogues and the hairstyles. But when that music starts to play, I would ask yet again, “Why the hell don’t they make songs like this any more?”

 

Elvis

Independent filmmaker and screenwriter.