June 22, 2012

In theaters

Fly Over: ‘Rock of Ages’

by Capt. Tristan Hinderliter

“Rock of Ages,” 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 D’Arienzo Broadway musical of the same name upon which it is based.

Part “Burlesque,” part “Coyote Ugly,” “Rock of Ages” is the story of Sherrie (Julianne Hough of “Dancing with the Stars”), 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 they’re counting on a show by rock legend Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise), a long-time acquaintance of Dupree’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.

Cruise’s charisma is undeniable, and his performance is reminiscent of his role as misogynistic seduction guru Frank T.J. Mackey in Paul Thomas Anderson’s 1999 “Magnolia,” 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 Cruise’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 Drew’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 – not surprising given that every song is lip-synched from a track cut in the studio.

I recommend this movie for Tom Cruise’s portrayal of Stacee Jaxx, but the constant interruption of campy musical performances with elaborate choreography is distracting, and the movie doesn’t shine as much as it should given its significant star power.

“Rock of Ages” is rated PG-13. 

About the Author

Capt. Tristan Hinderliter
Tristan Hinderliter is a full-time Public Affairs Officer and part-time pop culture critic. When he’s not listening to the Adam Carolla Podcast, he’s usually watching movies. His favorite directors include David Lynch, Paul Thomas Anderson, the Coen Brothers, Martin Scorsese, David Fincher and Alexander Payne.

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