Rock of Ages Directed by Adam Shankman
Starring Tom Cruise, Julianne Hough, Diego Boneta, Russell Brand, Paul Giamatti, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Malin Åkerman, Mary J. Blige, Alec Baldwin
Warner Bros. Pictures
Rated PG-13 | 123 Minutes
Release Date: June 15, 2012
“Ain’t lookin’ for nothin’ but a good time, and it don’t get better than this.” – Poison
Disclaimer: I am a 27-year-old man with an affinity for musical theatre and ’80s glam rock. I am not ashamed to admit I have shed a tear or two during Glee or the occasional off-Broadway production of Rent. Musicals aren’t for everyone, but for all the Drama Nerds, Band Geeks, and Glee Kids out there, this one’s for you.
From director Adam Shankman (Hairspray) comes Warner Bros. Pictures’ big screen adaptation of the Broadway musical Rock of Ages. The year is 1987. Movies like Fatal Attraction, Moonstruck, and Beverly Hills Cop II blow up the box office while Mötley Crüe, Def Leppard, and Bon Jovi play to sold-out stadiums across the country. In this alternate reality of 1987, however, rock god Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise) is responsible for every ’80’s anthem and power ballad – an amalgam of every legendary front man in rock’n’roll history.
Rock of Ages features Julianne Hough (Footloose, Burlesque) as Sherrie Christian, a small-town girl who leaves Tulsa, Oklahoma to follow her Hollywood dreams. There she meets rock’n’roller Drew Boley (Diego Boneta), a bartender at The Bourbon Room, one of Sunset Strip’s hottest concert venues.
With only $17 to her name, Sherrie gets a job waiting tables at The Bourbon thanks to club owner Dennis Dupree (Alec Baldwin) and his assistant Lonny Barnett (Russell Brand). Set to the sounds of Def Leppard, Foreigner, Journey, Poison, REO Speedwagon, Twisted Sister, Pat Benatar, and others, Sherrie and Drew pursue their dreams of rock’n’roll superstardom.
The kids cross paths with Stacee Jaxx and his slick, sleazball manager Paul Gill (Paul Giamatti) when they visit The Bourbon Room to put on a show. As Jaxx prepares to burn the Bourbon down to the ground with the power of his rocking, Mayor Whitmore (Bryan Cranston) and his overbearing wife Patricia (Catherine Zeta-Jones, Chicago) intend to clean up the Strip and rid the city of rock’n’roll filth.
That’s pretty much the story – you’ve got two young lovers serenading one another with power ballads while the city splits into two factions: the right-wing, sexually-repressed fundamentalists who want to ban rock music and the AquaNet-addicted, rockers fighting for their right to head-bang.
Rock of Ages compensates for a lack of story with an overwhelming amount of music. Before the film’s opening credits have finished you’ll have already heard a medley of ’80’s favorites like “Paradise City,” “Sister Christian,” “Just Like Paradise,” and “Nothin’ But A Good Time.”
There are some strong, albeit brief, performances from Malin Akerman (Watchmen) and Mary J. Blige, but the spotlight belongs to Cruise as Stacee Jaxx. Cruise’s commitment to the role is admirable as he embraces his inner Axl Rose and belts out “Paradise City,” “Pour Some Sugar On Me,” and “Wanted Dead or Alive” with intensity and charisma.
Catherine Zeta-Jones is excellent as the domineering hell-spawn of Tipper Gore and Nancy Reagan, and her performance of Benatar’s “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” is one of the more memorable music numbers in the film. Hough is lovely as always – an extremely talented, gorgeous young woman who wins you over with her sweetness. Her puppy-love story with newcomer Diego Boneta might come off as the same old recycled romance you’ve seen from Rachel and Finn of Glee, but it’s saved by fantastic choreography and entertaining musical numbers.
Just like the music it features, Rock of Ages is a guilty pleasure. You won’t find any classics from The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, or AC/DC here – because the film’s story is contained to the LA music scene in ’87 when glam (“hair”) metal was all the rage. The basic formula for success in regard to Shankman’s musical comedy is: Monster Ballads + Glee + Guitar Hero ’80s Edition – and I’m completely fine with that.
And besides, how often in life do you get the opportunity to watch Tom Cruise sing “I Want To Know What Love Is” into Malin Akerman’s ass? The answer, sadly, is not nearly enough. If you ever made a break-up mixtape featuring Poison’s “Every Rose Has Its Thorn,” then Rock of Ages is an entertaining, nostalgic trip back to the days of acid-washed jeans, hot pink lipstick, and neon-green legwarmers. Check out the film’s trailer below.