Director: Adam Shankman
Starring: Diego Boneta, Julianne Hough, Tom Cruise, Malin Ackerman, Russell Brand, Alec Baldwin, Mary J. Blige, Paul Giamatti, Bryan Cranston, Catherine Zeta-Jones
When you see Rock of Ages, you don't go in expecting your mind will be blown away with some existential thoughts and questions. It is not that kind of movie. You go in for fun music that will have you dancing in your seat. Sherrie Christian (Hough) is a young, broke, up and coming singer that leaves her Oklahoma life behind as she buses out to Los Angeles in hopes to make it big. The night she arrives in LA, she is mugged of her sole possessions which are mostly records. She just so happens to meet Drew (Boneta) who is also an up and coming singer and works as a bar back at The Bourbon Room. The Bourbon Room is the hottest concert venue that brings in the best rocks bands. Drew gets Sherrie a job as a waitress and they become smitten with each other.
Dennis (Baldwin) and Lonny (Brand) run The Bourbon Room. They are eagerly anticipating the greatest night yet with Stacee Jaxx (Cruise) playing his final concert with his band Arsenal. Everything is riding on this night with Stacee Jax. A Rolling Stone reporter (Ackerman) desperately tries to interview him before the show only to find that his drunken, lazy, care free attitude does not provide for a good sit down chat. On top of that, Dennis and Lonny are being hounded by the mayor (Cranston) and his church going, bible thumping wife (Zeta-Jones). She is desperately trying to get The Bourbon Room shut done as rock and roll is pure filth that promotes sex and drugs. What she doesn't know is that the mayor is cheating on her behind her back. The opening band for Arsenal quits the day of the show and Drew is given the opportunity to open for them. The big night does not quite go as planned and leaves a lasting impact on everyone involved.
There is a huge trend lately of turning Broadway musicals into movies. Some are phenomenal like Chicago and some are dreadful like The Producers. There are a few that fall right in the middle like Mamma Mia and Hairspray. I would say that Rock of Ages falls in the middle of the pack. Director Adam Shankman seems to be all about getting a huge cast full of big name actors and leaves the production aspect of it to the waste side. One of my biggest beefs with the production value is the poor sound mixing. There were so many times during the numbers where the band or background vocals seemed far louder than the main singer. I wanted to hear Mary J. Blige wail on some of the numbers but she just got drowned out. Sometimes if it is done well, you can believe that the actors are singing live. The lip synching was so bad that it was not even close to believable that they were bursting into song. The camera work and editing during the bigger numbers was sloppy at times. "Hit Me with Your Best Shot" had awesome choreography but it was difficult to fully appreciate it as they kept cutting to the mayor's affair. I may be getting too picky, but I wanted more care given to each of the musical numbers. Too often they were sloppy and there was too much going on with each one.
Even though the production values left me wanting more, the movie is full of so many great actors who are willing to let their egos go a little bit by having fun singing awesome '80s tunes. Catherine Zeta-Jones returns to her musical theater roots. She won an Oscar for her work in Chicago and she shines here as well. Her role was written for the movie, so unfortunately it is not as big as the other roles that were in the staged production. Tom Cruise is one devoted actor. He consistently devotes 100% of himself in each role. His commitment to Stacee Jaxx is no different than Ethan Hunt or Frank T.J.Mackey. His swagger and demeanor is perfect for the troubled rocker. Malin Ackerman holds her own next to Cruise in each of their scenes. Their duet is one of my favorite numbers in the movie. Julianne Hough and Diego Boneta are cute and decent as the two lovers, but they didn't blow me away. While I typically like Alec Baldwin, I felt like he and Russell Brand were basically playing exaggerated versions of themselves instead of making Dennis and Lonny different characters than we typically see them do.
Yes, the movie is made with sloppy production values and a weak script. However, if you go into it and allow yourself to have a campy good time with the fun '80s music, you will enjoy it. You may even find yourself tapping your foot along or have the songs stuck in your head later that evening.
RATING: *** 1/2 (3.5 out of 5 stars)