‘Rock of Ages’ – Movie Review
The film version of 'Rock of Ages' merits a lengthy and highly qualified recommendation: Can you stand the Broadway musical format at all? Can you stay extremely open-minded as some of your favorite '80s rock songs are re-recorded by actors, then endure a couple of questionable lead role casting choices and an openly cheesy atmosphere?
If so, then the power of the music featured in the film, and the overall high level of performances from the all-star supporting cast, will definitely bring several smiles to your face. (We really went out on a limb there, huh?)
Now, it's not going to work at all if you're a musical purist -- the new versions of classic rock tracks from Def Leppard, Guns N' Roses and so on are (of course) never an improvement on the originals. But if you forgive that, you can find yourself having a good time, especially on some of the clever medleys or mash-ups, such as when Starship's 'We Built This City' competes with Twisted Sister's 'We're Not Gonna Take It' for the very soul of Los Angeles' Sunset Strip.
The film is set in 1987, and follows a couple of star-crossed dreamers hoping to become rock stars and fall in love while schlepping drinks at the king of all the strip's night clubs. At the same time, Tom Cruise stars as a burnt-out rock legend searching for new romantic and creative inspiration.
Cruise, as usual, throws himself 100% into the role, and while his comic turn isn't up there with his work on 'Tropic Thunder' it's easily the highlight of the film. Russell Brand, Alec Baldwin and especially Paul Giamatti (as a sleazy, duplicitous manager) also deliver charismatic performances.
The problem is, this all-star cast highlights the movie's biggest problem -- relative newcomers Julianne Hough and Diego Boneta, cast as the film's leads, simply get blown out of the water by their more established cast mates. A similar problem emerges in the singing department halfway through the film with the arrival of Mary J. Blige. In a move akin to bringing a cannon to a knife fight, her impressive pipes set a high bar that the rest of the cast couldn't possibly hope to match.
Still, it's kinda fun watching the lyrics and themes of all those great rock songs turn up at key moments in the film. It all runs about a half hour too long, but you can spend part of that time looking for cameo appearances by Sebastian Bach, Kevin Cronin of REO Speedwagon and Nuno Bettencourt of Extreme.
Watch the 'Rock of Ages' Movie Trailer