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If you're looking for a whole pile of cheesy 80s music in a film setting, just like musicals often throw up or every other episode of Glee features, then you need to look no further than Rock of Ages. Also a successful stage show, it chronicles small town girl Sherrie's trip to the big city to make it as a music sensation, only to find that down on his luck city boy Drew has all the bad news she needs about how hard it is to make it.
The plot itself is no big news, it's a bit like Coyote Ugly mixed with Glee to be honest, and a huge dollop of cheese accompanies the cast as we meet the various characters. Drew (Diego Boneta) works in a bar that regularly hosts rock bands. It's owned by Dennis Dupree (Alec Baldwin) and his assistant (?) Lonny (Russell Brand). Sherrie happens to come along and needs some bar work just as another girl quits, so she gets the job.
She can sing, he can sing. His band's okay. They're all obsessed with rock and roll and are willing to throw out heavy guitar orientated recognisable tunes every five minutes. With rock God Stacee Jaxx the man every other man wants to be and every girl wants to be with coming along to do a gig, people get highly excited, and for some unknown inexplicable reason, if you like rock music, you're going to find yourself with a big grin on your face throughout this film. There's absolutely nothing special about the acting, but it's all solid. Even the quirky on screen pairing of Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand works in a humourous way, and Tom Cruise actually has a pretty decent voice. I don't know how affected by special effects any of their voices were in the editing studio, but these are not Les Mis vocals on show here - it's all about how much they can rock out!
Perhaps the biggest element of acting comes from Paul Giamatti, who manages to epitomise the selfish and fickle nature of the music business as Stacee's manager. The remainder of the acting is clearly and deliberately over the top, to the point where Jim Carrey would be completely be at home. Sure, there are some cringeworthy moments, but it's so much fun that you'll find it hard to be disappointed unless this music just isn't your thing.
It's a rock music fan's idea of how to throw together a bunch of tracks by Journey, Whitesnake, Poison, Def Leppard et al. Who cares that some of the tracks were actually released slightly after when the film is actually set? No one should, cos it doesn't matter. We have here a chance to twist and manipulate time and reality to provide us with an excuse to place popular 80s rock music in an almost fairytale setting where Journey's Don't Stop Believin' actually means something to the city boy and small town girl. Cheese upon cheese, fun scene upon fun scene, even some vulgarity that is as cheesy as it can get. Everything has its place, and while I couldn't possible praise this as an Oscar winning film, I similarly couldn't do anything other than recommend you watch it. Pure unadulterated 80s rock cheesey fun.
About the film
Rock of Ages is a musical film directed by Adam Shankman that was released in the summer of 2012. The film has a rating of 12A due to language, heavy drinking, suggestive dancing and sexual context. Rock Of Ages has a run time of 124 minutes.
Set in 1987, Sherrie Christian sets off from her small hometown to the bright lights of L.A. with the hopes of making it big. However, during her first day there, she is mugged and left with no money. A young barman from a nearby club, The Bourbon Room, helps her out and even manages to get her a job. The two instantly hit it off and there are sparks between them and they both have a lot in common with both wanting to be singers.
The Bourbon Room is a struggling club on Sunset Strip and manager Dennis thinks that he has all of the answers to getting back on track. Lead singer of the band Arsenal, Stacee Jaxx, is set to play at the club but he has a reputation for letting people down. At the same time, the new Mayor's wife is hell bent on getting the club shut down, saying it promotes sex and drugs. With all of this going on, Sherrie, Drew and The Bourbon Room have a lot of problems standing in their way.
Julianne Hough as Sherrie Christian
Diego Boneta as Drew Boley
Tom Cruise as Stacee Jaxx
Russell Brand as Lonny Barnett
Paul Giamatti as Paul Gill
Catherine Zeta-Jones as Patricia Whitmore
Mary J. Blige as Justice Charlier
Malin Åkerman as Constance Sack
Alec Baldwin as Dennis DupreeBryan Cranston as Mike Whitmore
Will Forte as Mitch Miley
Kevin Nash and Jeff Chase
What I thought
It isn't very often that I pay attention to a director of a film but knowing that Adam Shankman was behind this one made me want to see it. He's responsible for other musical films like Hairspray and Step Up 3D amongst many other films and TV episodes. There aren't many of Shankman's films that I haven't liked so his name being on a film gives me high expectations for it.
The plot for this film is extremely cheesy for the most part, not something I was expecting considering it is a film about rock music. With main character Sherrie heading off to L.A to make it to the big time and her quickly finding a love interest, it was clear to see how the rest of the film was going to be. From here, I was ready for 2 hours' worth of cheese. However, this isn't always a bad thing because it makes for some easy watching even with predictability being a high factor. As nice as the two main characters were, they were a little too nice for my liking and neither one had anything really special about them.
This is where Stacee Jaxx makes the film a little more interesting. Played by Tom Cruise, Jaxx is known as a Rock God with a huge reputation for letting people down and having girls faint at his feet. I used to really love Tom Cruise in his earlier roles but have found his newer films to not be nearly as good. However, I think he was amazing in Rock of Ages. Playing someone so arrogant and full of themselves seems to suit Cruise really well but he does give a fantastic performance at the same time. This is the first musical Cruise has ever been in and after reading an interview somewhere, I found out that he had months of vocal training before starting this film. While his voice isn't amazing in the soundtrack, especially compared with some of the other cast, he does good enough. As Jaxx, Cruise adds in a darker aspect to the film which is nowhere near light and fluffy like the main characters.
Other cast members include Alec Baldwin, Russell Brand and Catherine Zeta-Jones who all do an ok job but nothing amazing. Then there is Mary J. Blige who was seriously underused. Playing Justice Charlier, Blige is only in the film for a short amount of time. She barely gets any songs to sing and certainly none of the biggest ones of the film. As such a well-known singer, I thought that she would have had a more important role or at least had her vocal talents showcased. Her character is the owner of a strip club which is where she meets Sherrie. I think this part of the film was basically a filler and it didn't really have anything important to add.
The soundtrack is really what makes this film great. With a mix of fast and slow songs from the era, there is something for everyone. While the ballads were pretty boring for me, I loved the more up tempo numbers as they added a lot more fun and excitement to the plot. With songs like Hit Me With Your Best Shot, Any Way You Want It and We're Not Gonna Take It, it gives the film a really happy feeling to it and there are plenty of songs to sing along to. I was only 1 in the year this film was set in but I did know the majority of the songs that were used so if you weren't around then, it doesn't matter at all.
Overall, Rock of Ages is really cheesy but super fun at the same time. It won't appeal to everyone but for anyone who likes musical films, it's a good way to spend 2 hours.
It's the age-old story: a small town girl who can sing well comes to Hollywood to pursue her dream to become a singer. She meets an equally talented but struggling boy. They connect through their passion for music. Love develops alarmingly quickly. But this is set in a world where characters break out into song and dance routines every few minutes. So let's forgive this little pacing mishap. There is a bit of a misunderstanding and the lead couple are separated. Later they unitet and both succeed. And this is a formula that has worked and will work for years to come. Nothing particularly original, but the final cheer and high musical films end in do undeniably give you a massive boost of some sorts. What separates the excellent adaptation of West End, Broadway smash hit "Rock of Ages" is the infectious fun the film provides, placing its classic rock tunes to optimum use.
There is plenty of energy from the get-go. A bus full of passengers start nodding along to the beats as Sherrie (Julianne Hough) breaks into a medley of songs. Soon we are transported to the world of The Bourbon Room, a popular club on the Sunset Strip, managed by Lonny (Russell Brand) and Dennis (Alec Baldwin). The club is a chaotic, sweaty, boozy, vomity mess but they don't care. All they want is to rock and roll, and why shouldn't they? Bartender Drew (Diego Bonetta) has a dream...yeap, you guessed it, to become an iconic rock star. To reach the same heights of fame as...say...Stacie Jaxx (Tom Cruise), a rock star so legendary that when he decides to visit the club for a gig, the two managers cannot conceal their excitement. How does the girl fit into all of this? She, after a rather shockingly lazy scene of robbing, ends up penniless, something (Bonetta) witnesses. She gets a job working in the club, and you can fill in the rest of the story from there.
Adding a little extra spice and a potential villain into the mix is Patricia Whidmore (Catherine Zeta-Jones), an uptight, conservative Christian wife of the city's Mayor (Bryan Cranston) who leads an army of fellow poshly dressed religious ladies of her church in a bid to shut the club down for representing vile filth. The club undergoing financial struuggles is welcome news to her, as this beautifully sets in motion herr plan to cleanse the streets of Los Angeles. She seems to have a personal vendetta against Jaxx, giving her all the more reason to accomplish her mission.
One of the only aspects to immediately dislike about the film is the unspired leads. Hough and Bonetta make a good-looking pair, buut their appeal is limited to their looks and never becomes a couple necessarily worth rooting for. Whenever there is dialogue involved, it beomces unbelievably cheesy and corny, something not helped by the two increasingly irritating actors. And get ready to hear some high-class schoolgirl squeak-singing from Hough - although her thin and pretty voice comoplements other actors' well in grorup performrances, her solo singing ability is not distinct or powerful enough to carry any weighty tunes.
But it's when no-one is talking the film starts to show its many highlights. The songs, brilliantly chosen from unforgettable rock anthems, are simply extraordinary to listen to, and the cast does an astonishing job in pulling them off. Cruise, who the media loves to mock and poke jabs at due to his quirks and eccentricities, seems to be having the time of his life being paid to be an oddity, spot-on as the slow-talking, boozy, drugged up rock star, almost always delivering the gags. He is a more than decent singer too, memorably pulling off 'Dead or Alive' in impressive physical form given his age of nearing 50. Partnered with him as a potential love interest is Malin Akerman, playing a Rolling Stone music reporter, with whom Cruise shares a surprisingly kinky and risque musical number despite the film's low classification of 12A. Although there is a heck of a lot of suggestive, and sometimes downright in-your-face shots (including a view of Cruise's ass, for example), the fact that this manages to have almost zero nudity is probably how the film secured its low age restriction.
Stage-trained, Tony Award winning Zeta-Jones shines as she energetically commands the screen with her rendition of 'Hit Me With Your Best Shot,' putting a literal meaning to the lyric 'shot,' whilst her husband Cranston decides to have an extra-marital affair with his secretary in a church using prayer beads in a way that would shock even the non-believers. Baldwin and Brand get a fair chunk of the screentime devoted to an unexpected twist in the pair's relationship, whereas America's R&B + Soul legend Mary J. Blige occasionally lends her hand in frequent group numbers with her deep, broad and confident voice. As the owner of a strip club Sherrie joins for a brief period of time, she belts out one of the most astounding scenes of the film, with Journey's 'Any Way You Want It,' in which the gutsy choreography turns pole-dancing and strippers into an art form.
Oh yes, musicals live and die by just how spectacular the dances, moves, costumes and production designs are. And "Rock of Ages" does not disappoint in constantly hitting the screen with the right mix of vibrant energy, sex appeal, and humour. I have already mentioned the mesmerising pole-dancing bar, in which two of the film's songs are set, and what Adam Shankman (director) manages to do here is truly remarkable. The tricks and moves these dancers display look painful and hardcore, but whatever training they went through, I sincerely hope they feel proud of what they have accomplished. The excellent choreography plays a huge part on just how entertaining this mediocre-sounding film turns out to be and it is a true testament to the power of excellent rock music alone giving this film its unique edge.
Although thin on narrative (this scores as few points for originality as "Burlesque") and often full of inane dialogue, when everyone in the film gets up to dance and shake their heads to the beat of the music, the chances are, you will want to do the same too. So forget about how charmless Hough and Bonetta are, and laugh at the film's awkward suggestion that it was Bonetta who wrote the song 'Don't Stop Believing.' And instead have a blast, and for the slightly older members of the audience, this is will no doubt bring back some good memories.