(Published in City Express, The New Indian Express, on 16 June, 2012, retrieved from http://newindianexpress.com/entertainment/reviews/article543612.ece)
Cast: Tom Cruise, Alec Baldwin, Russell Brand, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Bryan Cranston, Diego Boneta, Julianne Hough, Malin Akerman, Mary J. Blige
Director: Adam Shankman
Rating: 1 star
Spoof and sap don’t go together. Rock of Ages tries to mix the two, with hamming and crooning for catalysts, and the experiment backfires. When the girl from Tulsa, Oklahoma, takes a Greyhound bus to Hollywood, and meets a boy with big dreams and a guitar, you know the storyline is predictable. The problem is when the punch lines are, too.
The film opens with Van Halen’s Just Like Paradise, which Julianne Hough, who plays Sherie, somehow contrives to sing like a pop song. You know she’s a bad actor, further exposed by a poor script, when she reacts to her first mishap. Of course, Drew (Diego Boneta) lands up just in time to get her a job.
When the owners of a club, The Bourbon Room, Dennis Dupree (Alec Baldwin) and Lonny (Russell Brand) enter the picture, one begins to hope. But before we’ve got our second laugh, the story forces us to follow the syrupy romance that’s already making us sick. So, the first kiss is behind the Hollywood sign. You know then that there will be a misunderstanding, and a sentimental reunion, both possibly at the same site.
We meet the other characters – Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise), former frontman of rock band Arsenal, who’s now going solo; Mayor Mike Whitmore (Bryan Cranston) and his wife Patricia (Catherine Zeta-Jones), who are on a mission to clean up the Sunset Strip, and will start with The Bourbon Room; Paul (Paul Giamatti), Stacee Jaxx’s oily manager.
Everyone breaks into song at the slightest excuse, but the duets are the worst; they’re set off by resolutions as mundane as, “If I couldn’t see Stacee Jaxx, I was gonna be Stacee Jaxx.” That brings me to the songs. Now, this film is set in 1987. Remember the songs of that period? The rockers wrote about life and chicks; the pop bands wrote about girls and love. The songs in this film sound, at best, like they should be in Disney fairy tales, and, at worst, in a Britney Spears album. When someone declares, an hour and a half into the film that rock is dead, and pop is the new thing, you hope the film will take on a genre it can handle; but no, everyone must prove rock is alive by slaughtering it.
In a movie where the leads don’t have the attitude to pull off a rock ‘n’ roll pairing, the flimsy plot could only have been saved by witty screenplay. Sadly, the timing is off, the puns are infantile, and the humour homophobic.
The best things about this film are Tom Cruise and Alec Baldwin – Cruise plays Rocker Stacee Jaxx like Scientologist Tom Cruise, and the results are two hilarious tirades, involving “the fire phoenix” and existentialism, and a phone conversation involving Cinderella.
The Verdict: What may have been intended as an expensive tribute to rock ‘n’ roll ends up like a bad night at the karaoke.