Rock god Stacee Jaxx vents that he’s a slave to rock ‘n’ roll. His lament parallels the problems at the core of Rock of Ages; the story and characters are swallowed whole by the music – and when the pounding beat ebbs, there’s little left to attract us to what’s underneath. This won’t be a problem for many as the creative use of classic rock songs as a form of narration has its own substantial appeal. The clever juxtaposition of recognizable tunes and the extravagantly choreographed dance sequences are also entertaining, but they don’t provide the stability of a stronger plot and more intricately developed characters. When the guitars roar and the singing starts though, it can be easy to forgive the faults and submerse yourself in the pulsing music and fervent performances.
With high hopes of becoming a singer, young Oklahoma girl Sherrie Christian (Julianne Hough) heads to Hollywood. Once there, a chance encounter lands her a job at the Bourbon Room, a famous nightclub run by Dennis Dupree (Alec Baldwin) that has played host to countless rock icons, including the wildly unhinged Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise). Falling in love with the Bourbon’s busboy Drew (Diego Boneta), Sherrie thinks she’s found happiness, but a grave misunderstanding finds the lovers parting ways; as each one drifts further away from their dreams, tragedy also strikes the Bourbon in the form of a bitter mayor’s wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones), intent on shutting them down. But with a little luck and a lot of love, the power of rock ‘n’ roll might just save them all.
Fleeting cleverness works its way into a story of shattered dreams, lost and found love, personal redemption, and all that is ’80s rock (including oodles of sweat, skin, pyrotechnics, girls, booze, and mischievous pet monkeys). With laughs from sexually deviant setups, suggestive comedic arrangements, and lascivious routines, and awkwardness from the stereotypical insanities of out-of-control musicians, the lack of a plot is intermittently forgotten. The infectious, nonstop soundtrack is also, fortunately, so intoxicating that it hides the deficiency in scripting. Generic characters and expected revelations messily fill in the gaps for a thrillingly assembled composition of catchy tunes and innovative duets, further augmented by an impressive cast (considering the success of the stage play, notable actors were probably easily attracted to the theatrical adaptation).
An abundance of energy similarly makes up for the unconvincing lip-syncing and spontaneous song-and-dance that isn’t as smoothly integrated into character actions as other modern musicals. The flow and transitions are somewhat abrasive at the start, but after a few montages that seem to exist in their own indeterminate time frame, it’s difficult not to get caught up in Cruise’s silliness (embellished with an unwarranted sense of entitlement and extreme decadence), Giamatti’s go-to sleazy linguist role, and Baldwin’s uncharacteristic visual styling. Russell Brand, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Bryan Cranston, and Malin Akerman conflictingly add nothing but recognizable names and missed potential. Despite the foibles and faults, however, the music really makes it work.
- The Massie Twins (GoneWithTheTwins.com)
The Massie Twins are identical twin film critics who have been professionally reviewing movies full time for over 5 years, appearing on TV, radio, online and in print. They are members of the Phoenix Film Critics Society and the Internet Film Critic Society and their work can be seen at GoneWithTheTwins.com
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