Thursday, 28 June 2012

Rock of Ages [Review]

Rock of Ages has transparent characters, a tired plot, and features the vocal talents of (among others) Tom Cruise, Russell Brand and Alec Baldwin. Why, then, is it so damn enjoyable?

In fact, bar February’s The Muppets, this is quite possibly the most fun I’ve had at the cinema all year. Partly it’s down to the setting: 80s Hollywood, the Sunset Strip, and everything that comes with it. Think ballsy rock ballads, denim jackets, perms, and plenty of our old friend Mr. Jack Daniel.

It isn’t for everyone, of course. If you growl, squeal or squirm in an uncomfortable manner at the very mention of the likes of Foreigner, Bon Jovi, Poison et al, then chances are this won’t be up your street. Indeed, aside from an often-enough-hilarious script, it’s purely the distracting musical numbers that’ll draw your attention away from those niggles I mentioned earlier.

Rock of Ages, based on the West End musical of the same name, is at heart a love story – or rather, three parallel love stories. Two of these are mere secondary plot points; on one hand we have rocker Stacee Jaxx (Cruise) and a Rolling Stone journalist rolling around on a pool table, and an unlikely romance brewing between two characters that I feel it would be a crime to spoil.

At the forefront are the youngest - our two leads, Sherrie (Julianne Hough) and Drew (Diego Boneta); innocent, naive and making all the wrong choices. She’s just turned up from Oklahoma with stars in her eyes; he’s a struggling musician working in a bar. Yep, you’ve seen it a thousand times before. Tack on some sidetracking stuff about ‘the man’ trying to shut down the Strip while the film’s main hangout, The Bourbon, struggles with financial woes and it’s like we’re really back in the 80s. Probably.

Anyway, where the plot lacks surprises, the rest of the film packs them in by the barrelful. Mainly in the form of how bloody good everyone seems to be at singing. Maybe it’s slightly autotuned. Who can say? Either way, at least everyone seems to have plenty of fun – not least Mr. Cruise, who once again shows how balls-to-the-wall weird he can be (see Tropic Thunder for more), playing what is essentially a screen representation of Axl Rose. Either way, he understands that this kind of movie should be fun, and, along with Brand and Baldwin, provides the most laughs - it's cheesy, but it's supposed to be.

Hough and Boneta are bland but prototypical of the kind of memorably mediocre glam rock songs that fill the slightly-too-long 123 minute runtime. I say mediocre – how much fun you have with this movie will depend entirely on how much fun you have with the songs. It’s karaoke on the silver screen, so if you can relate – be it from a drunken Christmas party or one too many nights playing Singstar – then it’ll certainly fall on better ears. But give it a shot anyway - you never know how much fun you might have. Just don't stop believing...


Dir: Adam Shankman
Cast: Julianne Hough, Diego Boneta, Tom Cruise, Russell Brand, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Alec Baldwin
New Line Cinema, 123 mins, 13/06/12

Synopsis: It's the 1980s, and the modern American Dream is very different to what it once was: now it means Hollywood, fortune, fame... and rock n' roll. Sherrie Christian (Hough) travels to the Sunset Strip in search of stardom, but life in the big city isn't what she expects...


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