Review of Rock of Ages


Movie Review: "Rock of Ages"

-- Rating: PG-13 (sexual content, suggestive dancing, some heavy drinking and language)
Length: 123 minutes
Release Date: June 15, 2012
Directed by: Adam Shankman
Genre: Musical

Movie musicals have become fashionable again over the past few years, from the successes of "Mamma Mia!" and "Hairspray" in the late 2000s to the highly anticipated adaptation of "Les Miserables" expected at the end of this year. It's no surprise that Hollywood would take to "Rock of Ages," which debuted on the stage in 2006. "Rock of Ages," though, is not a typical musical: instead of Broadway-style numbers, it's full of classic 80s rock hits that are hard to resist singing along to.

"Rock of Ages" is the story of two young music fans, Sherrie Christian (Julianne Hough) and Drew Boley (Diego Boneta) with dreams of stardom: she has a gorgeous voice, and he has rock star ambitions. When the club the two friends work at runs into financial trouble, its owners decide to hire an aging rock star, Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise), and his band to play. After romantic entanglements ensue, Sherrie ends up hopeless and working as a stripper, while Drew's band is signed to a record label, with Drew transformed into a boy-band singer by the label. When the two reunite, they realize that they still love each other-and, of course, rock music-and decide to change their fates. Meanwhile, Stacee Jaxx is forced to face off with a group of anti-rock protestors led by an ashamed former groupie Patricia Whitmore (Catherine Zeta-Jones), and Jaxx must face his own feelings for a music reporter.

As a jukebox musical tribute to the era of big guitars and even bigger hair that was the 1980s, "Rock of Ages" is full of songs that audiences will likely know most of the words to, borrowing from bands such as Journey, Bon Jovi, Poison and Def Leppard, among other hit makers. Shankman, who also directed "Hairspray" and the "Step Up" series, does a great job both sending up and paying homage to the era. For such a music-heavy film, it's important that the actors can genuinely sing (or at least fake it), and, thankfully, the cast of "Rock of Ages" is able to pull off their power ballads well. It's almost worth the price of admission just to see Tom Cruise belt out "Pour Some Sugar on Me" and "I Want to Know What Love Is."

In fact, Cruise and the multitude of supporting players in the musical are the best part of "Rock of Ages." While some may have had doubts before the movie's release, Cruise is perfect as Stacee Jaxx, treading the line between being earnest and being hilariously over the top, skillfully creating a character whose scenes are the highlight of the film. Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand, as club owners Dennis and Lonny, are another high point of "Rock of Ages," providing a heavy dose of comedy as two best friends who find there may be more to their relationship. Hough and Boneta are two promising young talents who do their best with their characters and make a great-looking couple that you'll be cheering for by the time the credits roll. Keep an eye out for appearances by Paul Giamatti, Mary J. Blige and Malin Ackerman in supporting roles, as well as a few clever cameos by some of the real rock stars whose songs are covered in the film.

The plot of "Rock of Ages" may not be the most rock solid in the world, but its humor and good heart are what really matters and what takes the stage front and center. The visuals are stunning, as well as the costumes, hair and makeup, all of which are both true to the time period and amusing to look at: it wouldn't be surprising to see groups dressing up as the whole cast of characters this Halloween. Best of all, it's the rare movie musical that has broad appeal for a wide variety of people. For every audience member who comes for the romance and Broadway factor, there will be another enjoying the comedy value of seeing Baldwin and Cruise decked out in hair metal costumes, and of course, enjoying all of those 80s hits.

"Rock of Ages" is a winking but heartfelt tribute to all things rock and roll. It's a fun and satisfying ride of a movie, and is a must-see, particularly for fans of musicals and anyone who loves rocking out to the over-the-top tunes of the 80s.

Rating: 3 out of 5