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Sunday, June 17, 2012

Rock of Ages: nothin' but a good time

Went to see Rock of Ages on Friday night. I really enjoyed it, but I should say, in the interest of full disclosure, that I had really low expectations. I hadn't actually planned on seeing it at all, but a friend suggested that it might be terrible in a really excellent way, so see it I did. If you're not the sort of person who thinks thatmovies can be terrible in an excellent way, you should probably skip this one. I can't say that it's actualy a "good" film -- it is (intentionally) over the top and (also intentionally, I think) contrived, and even the contrived plot is pretty weak. Somehow, this doesn't stop it from being highly entertaining. Perhaps it's because, as my friend M. recently reminded me (speaking of an opera we'd seen), the narrative structure is always weak for these sorts of things, because it's not really the point. 

So what, then, was the point of Rock of Ages? Well, it's a film based on a Jukebox Musical. My understanding of jukebox musicals is that they're a thinly veiled excuse to have a bunch of actors sing songs people already know and love. For Rock of Ages, those songs are 80s rock songs, with a heavy emphasis on anthems and power ballads. I vividly remember listening to a lot of this music, which is how I knew that some of the songs had not come out in 1987. The set list spans from 1980-1990 (further back and a year later for the staged version), and has spawned a truly epic playlist on my iPod:

[Song (Artist) - Album, Year]

Paradise City (Guns n Roses) - Appetite for Destruction, 1987
Sister Christian (Night Ranger) - Midnight Madness, 1982
Just Like Paradise (David Lee Roth) - Skyscraper, 1988
Nothin' But a Good Time (Poison) - Open Up and Say...Ahh!, 1988
Juke Box Hero (Foreigner) - 4, 1981
I Love Rock n Roll (Joan Jett and the Blackhearts) - I Love Rock n Roll, 1981
Hit Me With Your Best Shot (Pat Benetar) - Crimes of Passion, 1980
Waiting For a Girl Like You (Foreigner) - 4, 1981
More Than Words (Extreme) - Extreme II: Pornograffitti, 1990
Heaven (Warrant) - Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich, 1989
wanted Dead or Alive (Bon Jovi) - Slippery When Wet, 1986
I Want to Know What Love Is (Foreigner) - Agent Provocateur, 1984
I Wanna Rock (Twisted Sister) - Stay Hungry, 1984
Pour Some Sugar On Me (Def Leppard) - Hysteria, 1987
Harden My Heart (Quarterflash) - QuarterFlash, 1981
Shadows of the Night (Pat Benetar) - Get Nervous, 1982
Here I Go Again (Whitesnake) - Saints & Sinners, 1982
I Can't Fight This Feeling (REO Speedwagon) - Wheels Are Turning, 1984
Every Rose Has its Thorn (Poison) - Open Up and Say...Ahh!, 1988
Rock You Like  Hurricane (Scorpion) - Love at First Sting, 1984
We Built This City (Starship) - Knee Deep in the Hoopla, 1985
We're Not Gonna Take It (Twisted Sister) -  Stay Hungry, 1984
Don't Stop Believin' (Journey) - Escape, 1981

And there are a few songs that are in the stage version, but not in the film:

Too Much Time On My Hands (Styx) - Paradise Theater, 1981
To Be With You (Mr. Big) - Lean Into It, 1991
Cum on Feel the Noize (Slade) - Sladest, 1973
The Final Countdown (Europe) - The Final Countdown, 1986
High Enough (Damn Yankees) - Damn Yankees, 1990
I HAte Myself for Loving You (Joan Jett and the Blackhearts) - Up Your Alley, 1988
Oh Sherrie (Steve Perry) - Street Talk, 1984
The Search is Over (Survivor) - Vital Signs, 1984

Rock of Ages (the film) is successful, in that I really had to fight the urge to sing along. So, while there's really not much of a story to get caught up in (almost everything in the film is a foregone conclusion), there are plenty of catchy hooks, crescendos, and guitar solos to get carried away by, as long as you're willing to surrender to the ridiculousness of it all. 

The one thing that really threw me? Tom Cruise's strangely contortion of his pelvis and torso. There are moments where whatever is happening with Stacee Jaxx is the exact opposite of sexy, and intentionally so. But I'm pretty sure there were moments when he was supposed to be strutting with confidence, and maybe even sexiness, but he really just looked like something was wrong with his spine.

OK, so there were two things that threw me. One was Tom Cruise's....whatever was going on there. The other was Julianne Hough. Was she really the best singer they could find for that part? And, if she's famous as a dancer, why was she so unimpressive during her big "dance" scene? So confusing.

Aside of the weird posture, Tom Cruise was creepy and messed-up as Stacee Jaxx, which I think was acting. Julianne Hough did not particularly impress me. Malin Ackerman continues to have a good sense of humor (see: 27 Dresses), Kathrine Zeta Jones gets the job done as Tipper Gore the rock hating activist, Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand are amusing as rock n roll lifers, and Paul Giamatti is a fantastically slimy manager. Diego Boneta was pretty good (singing) as rock-hopeful Drew. Also? He's way hotter in press appearances than he was in the movie.
Sorry...what was I talking about?

Kind of cute, I guess.

Overall, the whole thing was ridiculous, but highly enjoyable. Or, as Poison once said...

1 comment:

  1. I pretty much agree with every single bit of your review. I had a great time, which I didn't totally expect. I also laughed at "Tom Cruise was creepy and messed-up as Stacee Jaxx, which I think was acting." Yeah. I hope he played that role with tongue firmly planted in cheek. I mean, I'm not totally sure about that, but...

    I also think this movie wasn't marketed/promoted well. Based on trailers and posters alone, I had no clue that this was the 80's glam metal/power ballad version of Mama Mia. I think I thought it was maybe a dark "rise and fall" type movie with a made-up protagonist kind of meant to be Axl Rose. But the campy Alec Baldwin moments in the trailer threw me--comic relief, maybe?

    So I was overjoyed when I discovered that it was a jukebox musical. And yeah, Julianne Hough is so bland. So completely bland.