â€œRock of Ages,â€ a love letter to 1980s classic rock music, has come to theaters this summer with an all-star ensemble cast and plenty of lip-synching. With a few exceptions, however, the much-hyped big-screen adaptation directed by Adam Shankman fails to strike the same chord as the 2006 Chris Dâ€™Arienzo Broadway musical of the same name upon which it is based.
Part â€œBurlesque,â€ part â€œCoyote Ugly,â€ â€œRock of Agesâ€ is the story of Sherrie (Julianne Hough of â€œDancing with the Starsâ€), a small-town Oklahoma girl who comes to Hollywood with dreams of making it big.
Shortly after arriving, she meets Drew (Diego Boneta), an aspiring rocker working at The Bourbon Room, a popular nightclub on the Sunset Strip. Drew gets her a job as a waitress at the club, and the two hit it off immediately.
The Bourbon Room is managed by Dennis Dupree (Alec Baldwin) and Lonny (Russell Brand). The club is in dire financial straits, and theyâ€™re counting on a show by rock legend Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise), a long-time acquaintance of Dupreeâ€™s, to keep them solvent.
Cruise, who turns 50 next month, is magnificent as Jaxx, the former lead singer of the fictional band Arsenal who is now performing as a solo act. Jaxx is the archetype of the hard-drinking, eccentric, oversexed rock god, and he perfectly embodies the decadence and excesses of rock and roll in the 80s.
Cruiseâ€™s charisma is undeniable, and his performance is reminiscent of his role as misogynistic seduction guru Frank T.J. Mackey in Paul Thomas Andersonâ€™s 1999 â€œMagnolia,â€ for which he received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor, another small role amid a great ensemble cast.
The night of the show, Jaxx arrives at the club, and, while swilling a ubiquitous bottle of whiskey, conducts an interview with Rolling Stone reporter Constance Sack (Malin Akerman), a buttoned-down blond bombshell. Akerman, however, like the rest of the cast is no match for Cruiseâ€™s acting chops.
When the opening band cancels at the last minute, Dupree allows Drew and his bandmates, who also work at the club, to fill in and open for Jaxx. The band is a big hit, and a combination of Drewâ€™s newfound success and a misunderstanding with Sherrie drive the two apart (at least temporarily).
Meanwhile, a subplot follows Los Angeles mayor Mike Whitmore (Bryan Cranston) and his wife Patricia (Catherine Zeta-Jones) as they wage a campaign to rid the city of the rock-and-roll counter culture they feel is corrupting the youth of the City of Angels.
The musical performances are decent, but they feel somehow over-produced. On their first date, Drew confesses his stage fright to Sherrie, saying he thinks it may prevent him from becoming a big-time star. His first performance, however, is slick and polished â€“ not surprising given that every song is lip-synched from a track cut in the studio.
I recommend this movie for Tom Cruiseâ€™s portrayal of Stacee Jaxx, but the constant interruption of campy musical performances with elaborate choreography is distracting, and the movie doesnâ€™t shine as much as it should given its significant star power.
â€œRock of Agesâ€ is rated PG-13.Â