Friday, June 15, 2012

Rock of Ages: A Morality Tale with No Morality


Sherrie (Julianne Hough) and Drew (Diego Boneta) take a
break from singing in a local Tower Records store.
Photo: Warner Bros.

Julianne Hough headlines the film adaptation of the “smash hit” Broadway musical, “Rock of Ages” and is quite impressive. It’s too bad that the rest of the movie isn’t. Though the film features big names, great music and some nice dance sequences, “Rock of Ages” will leave you feeling empty. Maybe that’s the point.

“Rock of Ages” is directed by Adam Shankman, who also did the big screen version of “Hairspray.” The comedy love story is told through musical numbers of popular “big hair” rock songs from the ‘80s. At times, the movie feels familiar. It could be because the score is by Adam Anders and Peer Astrom from TV’s  “Glee.”

Dennis Dupree (Alec Baldwin) and Lonny
(Russell Brand) run The Bourbon bar.
The musical begins with Sherrie (Hough), a small town girl with big city dreams. She takes the bus from middle America to Hollywood in hopes of becoming a singer. Within mere minutes, she meets Drew (Diego Boneta), finds a job at a bar, The Bourbon, and falls in love. Not bad for a first day. The couple serves at the bar, but would rather perform on the stage. After a big song number at the local Tower Records store Drew admits that he has stage fright.

The Bourbon is owned by an aging rocker, Dennis Dupree (Alec Baldwin – a questionable or brilliant choice depending on your point of view) and Lonny (Russell Brand). The bar is losing money and they are putting all of their hope in a performance by the legendary Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise) who got his start there. Meanwhile, the mayor, Mike Whitmore (Bryan Cranston) and his wife, Patricia (Catherine Zeta-Jones) plan to put a stop to the dangerous rock and roll and protest the coming concert.

Patricia Whitmore (Catherine Zeta Jones)
and the church ladies sing "Hit Me with
Your Best Shot."
Hough goes from ballroom dancing on TV’s “Dancing with the Stars” to pole dancing in “Rock of Ages,” (her mother must be so proud), but shines with a beautiful voice. Zeta-Jones is hilarious as the self-righteous mayor’s wife and has a great dance number with a bunch of church women in the sanctuary to the song, “Hit Me With Your Best Shot.” Cruise has been getting a lot of buzz about his performance as Jaxx and he does a good job, but frankly, the movie would have been helped with less of him. For the rest of the cast, once you see them with their outrageous costumes and big hair, the joke is over. However, the best joke of the movie goes to Sherrie and Drew talking about how far they have fallen from their dreams:

Constance Sack (Malin Akerman),
reporter for the Rolling Stones tries to get
an interview with Stacee Jaxx
(Tom Cruise).
Sherrie:  “I’m a stripper at the Venus club.”
Drew:     “I’m in a boy band.”
Sherrie:  “You win.”

There doesn’t seem to be much of a point to “Rock of Ages.” It seems to want to tell a morality tale, but there isn’t much morality in the tale to tell. It tries to tell the virtues of rock and roll at any cost. It also tries to compare the two lifestyles of those who go to the music bar and those that go to the stripper bar with no real difference. The filmmakers can pat themselves on the back for not showing anyone smoking or doing drugs, as we know that never happened in the ‘80s. Instead, they choose to show people drinking heavily, getting sick and passing out. Finally, for a film that shows no nudity (which is incredibly difficult for strip club), it features some surprising gratuitous and raunchy sexual scenes outside of the strip club. By the end you’ll be thinking, “This is it?” You’d do better to buy the soundtrack. (Originally posted on Examiner.com)

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