Film: Does Rock of Ages rock?
June 22nd, 2012
Omaha, NE – Can a Broadway hit full of nostalgia get everyone singing the same tune? From the Movieha podcast, Ryan Syrek and Matt Lockwood take a look at Rock of Ages.
Ryan: You and I differ on our opinion of the music produced in the 1980s.
Matt: I argue that it is our countryâ€™s finest audio hour, a triumphant announcement that we had arrived, carried on dulcimer guitar riffs and glorious synthesizer.
Ryan: And I argue that our government should issue a retroactive international apology for what we did to denim, fringe, and the musical scale. So Rock of Ages should have divided us, given that itâ€™s a musical based entirely on the pop rock anthems of that decade.
Matt: Julianne Hough, who is known for her country singing and Dancing With the Stars moves more than her acting prowess, plays Sherrie, a gal fresh off the bus from Oklahoma to Hollywood. She immediately bumps into Drew, played by Diego Boneta, who is himself an aspiring singer working at a bar. As is wont to happen in every musical, the two determine that they are soul mates after one song and dance. What the choreographer hath joined together, let no plot point tear apart.
Ryan: Sherrie and Drew work for Dennis (played by Alec Baldwin) at his bar, along with Lonny (played by Russell Brand). The bar is threatened by Christian crusader and wife of the mayor Patricia Whitmore (Catherine Zeta-Jones), who is mostly furious with Stacee Jaxx, the Axl Rose impression performed by Tom Cruise. Chances are, if youâ€™ve heard of this film, Cruise is why youâ€™ve heard of it.
Matt: What follows is the obvious makeup-breakup romantic plot that also sees Stacee Jaxx leave his band and strike out on a solo career at the behest of an unscrupulous agent played by Paul Giamatti, but not before singing essentially a karaoke version of Bon Jovi into the lady parts of a reporter played by Malin Ackerman.
Ryan: If it sounds funny, it should have been. The film is actually something beyond tolerable and close to engaging when it realizes that it should contain jokes and not sincere rom-com moments. Why in the name of Sebastian Bach would we not be laughing the entire time this hairtastic nonsense is being badly warbled?
Matt: As much as I wanted to defend the music I so dearly love, this isnâ€™t the music I so dearly love. Basically, itâ€™s like the TV show Glee exploded and this is what it looked like when it got swept up and glued back together. The songs are mixed, married, and merged to the point where what remains is downright unlistenable.
Ryan: Cruise does a great job playing an egotistical star whose behavior has become so manic that it has manifested in strange beliefs, ridiculous demands, and confrontations with others. I have absolutely no idea how he pulled this role off so convincingly.
Matt: Being able to finally laugh at Cruise for being ridiculous may help his career in the long run, even if the box office returns suggest this may be a short run.
Ryan: Even for musical fans who find themselves unable to resist when their favorite TV show does an all-singing episode or for those who have willingly not changed the channel when Fox unleashed Glee onto their eyeballs. Rock of Ages is a tough sell. Now, should they ever do a musical based entirely on early hip-hop music that features Tom Cruise singing NWA lyrics. Iâ€™m there.
Editorial note: The Movieha podcast is produced in partnership with The Reader and is available at thereader.com.
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