As a rock n roll fan, I loved Rock of Ages. It is a musical with a bare bones plot, but the musical numbers, solely composed of ’80’s hair bands, are simply stunning. I had more fun watching this film than I have had in a long time. I had a smile on my face for most of the film. This is a new guilty pleasure film, very fun with a great soundtrack.
Sherri arrives in L.A. and after being mugged meets Drew, a singer in a band and bartender. He gets her a job at The Bourbon Room, a cross between CBGB’s and The Whiskey A Go Go, owned and operated by Dennis Dupree (Alec Baldwin) and Lonny (Russell Brand). All of Dennis’ hopes ride on the performance of Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise), otherwise the bar will close.
There are a couple side plots involving Mayor Whitmore’s (Bryan Cranston) wife, Patricia (Catherine Zeta-Jones) trying to shut the joint down, much as Tipper Gore attempted in the ’80’s. There is also a second half plot involving Mary J. Blige as the owner/operator of a gentlemen’s club. Ok, enough with the plot description. That’s not why I went to see it, and why I’m sure it won’t be why you go. There are two reasons to see this movie: the music, and Tom Cruise playing an aging rock star. I am pleased to announce that both of those things work amazingly well.
Let’s talk about the music first. I am and have been a pretty big fan of ’80’s rock and metal for as long as I can remember. I was born in ’76 so I grew up with Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Def Leppard, and Twisted Sister. So of course, a film with the ’80’s metal and rock that I grew up with was a blast of nostalgia. Being a musical and hearing different versions of the songs in different context was very fun. I had a big grin on my face from start to end. I loved the choice of songs, and I knew every one that they played. I think there were only 5 songs in the film whose artists I didn’t know. I knew the songs, mind you, just couldn’t remember who sang them. I also found myself singing to most of them.
Tom Cruise, as those of you who read my blog regularly, is one of my fassvorite actors. He is a guy’s actor. He does things that guys want to watch (Minority Report, Mission: Impossible series, War of the Worlds, the list goes on and on). Here, he plays Stacee Jaxx, the lead singer of Arsenal, who is going solo. If you take Axl Rose, add just a smidge more crazy (yes, a little more crazy), you get Stacee Jaxx. He is a man who has given all to his fans. His sanity, his life, his soul. He is a dark, tortured spirit. Like the Dali Lama (a throwaway little line in the film) he is a living god to his fans. In the efforts to provide them with what they want and expect from him, his debauchery has taken a toll. He is a shell who clearly does not enjoy his lifestyle. He is a man who states that the one thing that can save him is the one thing he cannot have. And that is love. Because of his commitment to his fans, he cannot be what he wants to be. He has been Stacee so long, can he even come back from that? Could he leave Stacee behind? Those issues are unresolved, but I like to think that he did.
Catherine Zeta-Jones is also a nice revelation, playing the Tipper Gore-esque Patricia Whitmore, a right-wing mayor’s wife on a crusade to save the children from clutches of Satan’s music. She does so with seriousness that could have led into parody. While this is also a slight comedy film, she plays the character straight and does a phenomenal job. She never crosses into the territory of over the top villain, but she comes perilously close. It is a testament to her acting ability that she never steps over that line. I would like to say it is nice to see her back on the big screen. She has been gone for too long.
The two leads, Julianne Hough and Diego Boneta, do a fairly good job. The only thing I have to say on their end is that Ms. Hough has more of a voice for country music, which made some of the songs she sang a little off. Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand give adequate performances that lead into one of the funniest bits of the movie, which I will not spoil here. Let’s just say that I laughed very hard and long at their one particular scene. Paul Giamotti also stars as Stacee Jaxx’s slimy manager. He brings the scum out very well. He is certainly an unlikable character.
I really, really enjoyed this film. The music was top notch, and the actors (none of which except Mary J. Blige are professional singers) did very well with their musical numbers. The standout here, though, is Tom Cruise. The man can rock. He sings Paradise City by Guns n Roses, Wanted Dead or Alive by Bon Jovi, and Pour Some Sugar on Me by Def Leppard and knocks them out of the park. While he doesn’t hit the crazy highs as some of these bands do, he does such an admirable job that I would actually buy a CD of ’80’s rock covers performed by Tom Cruise. Really. I want this now. Come on, Mr. Cruise. Give us what we want. The petition starts here to get him to do that.
If you are a fan of ’80’s rock n roll, you will love this movie. If you aren’t, you probably won’t. It is ’80’s rock-centric. Keep that in mind if you plan to see this. For me, it was a wave of nostalgia, hearing some of these songs again. Forget the other critics that say it sucks. They suck. They don’t rock. The end. \m/
*** out of ****