I spent the ’80s north of the Arctic Circle, so I do not have the same visceral affection for that decade’s music as some of my friends have, or indeed that I have for the music of the ’60s. In an odd way, it allowed me to enjoy this movie-made-from-a-stage-play more than they did. When the actors could not replicate the raw power of the original hair bands, I was not disappointed. I just enjoyed the ride. The music evoked the atmosphere of the original hits well enough to have me humming along, happy to hear them again.
And happy to hear so much of it sung by a girl singer as pretty as Julianne Hough. This singer/actress also appeared in the recent “Footloose” (2011) and “Burlesque.” She plays Sherrie Christian, newly arrived in sinful Hollywood from boring Oklahoma. She quickly meets Drew, played by Mexican/American/ Spanish actor/singer Diego Boneta. If the cute couple cannot quite give us the awesome power of over-the-edge acts like Twisted Sister or Poison, they are plenty good enough for the film. They pay us for our admission money in the final scene, back to back and belting it out in the finest tradition of Rock.
Catherine Zeta-Jones is sort of an evil godmother-spoil sport, who is married to L.A. mayor Bryan Cranston (“Breaking Bad”). They want to run Rock ’n Roll off the Sunset Strip for political reasons. As if.
Paul Giamatti is the diabolical music manager, promising young talent fame and fortune in return for their souls and 10 percent of the gross. He is perfect. Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand are not perfect as the proprietors of the Rock nightclub where the action goes down. They were apparently just asked to show up and that is all they did.
Mary J. Blige has a small role as the voice of caution in sinful tinsel town as well as several singing parts. She may enter the slot once held by Aretha Franklin as the singer most likely to be cast in a movie. Gorgeous Malin Akerman plays the Rolling Stone reporter who has the depth of soul and courage to heal the headline rocker, Stacee Jaxx.
Tom Cruise is fantastic as Stacee Jaxx, a rocker in the doldrums of his career. Like many rockers, Jaxx must use potions to bring him to that state of miraculous insanity that his fans need. He has what looks like a pet baboon that he dresses in uniforms that a banana republic dictator would enjoy and can function at only the least conscious and semi-lethal level off stage. But on stage he can Rock. Cruise brings a surprising degree of raw sexuality to the role — the in-your-face attraction and danger that are associated with all great rock and rollers. I didn’t know he had it in him.
This PG-13 film rates a strong three saw blades, more for those who actually like musicals as a genre. The producers spent some $75 million on the film and judging from the lack-luster $18 worldwide gross the opening weekend, they may struggle to make their money back. It runs two hours and three minutes. If you want to sing along with Night Ranger, Bon Jovi, Def Leppard, Journey, Foreigner, Europe, Guns N’ Roses and REO Speedwagon, you should have a fine time.
Can Tom Cruise sing? “Rock of Ages” will reveal all.
Sherrie (Julianne Hough) is “just a small-town girl” from Oklahoma who moves to L.A. to try her hand at fame in the rock ’n roll business of 1987. She meets Drew (Diego Boneta), also a rocker, who gets her a job in the famous Bourbon Room on the Sunset Strip. There they are both able to hear the famous rock star Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise) play live. Drew’s band opens for his show, and he is taken under the wing of Stacee Jaxx’s manager, Paul Gill (Paul Giamatti). Heartbroken because of Drew’s newfound fame, Sherrie quits the Bourbon Room and tries to seek other employment.
Going against the rock ’n roll movement and the Bourbon Club is the mayor’s wife, Patricia Whitmore (Catherine Zeta-Jones), who is trying to clean up the strip and rid the city of Stacee Jaxx’s “hateful music.”
All this and the music of multiple ’80s bands.
“Rock of Ages” is a movie adaptation from a Broadway musical, which started playing in 2006, of the same title. Changes were made from the musical play, some of which were redefining the character Stacee Jaxx, making him a less dark character.
The actors were one of the good parts of “Rock of Ages.” Tom Cruise did very well in his role as Stacee Jaxx, the rock star. He actually did all of his own singing for the movie. Who knew that Tom Cruise could sing? But he does sing, and while Stacee Jaxx may be an unusual character for a 50-year-old to play, he pulls it off.
The other actors did well in their singing roles too, but some of them are less shocking to see singing.
“Rock of Ages” features many hit songs from the ’80s. Most of the songs were very familiar to me and there were some members of the audience that were singing along.
The music was one of the few redeeming parts of the whole movie. Stated plainly, the music was good, the movie was bad. For someone who wants to hear all the music that was in the movie, my advice is to just listen to it at home. The movie had a weak plotline, was very cheesy, and was too in-your-face to be able to enjoy. Overall, I would not recommend “Rock of Ages.” It’s just not worth it to spend two hours to go see when you could listen to the music any other time.