Rock of Ages

Please stop! Catherine Zeta-Jones and company drive a nail into the coffin of 80’s rock and roll in “Rock of Ages.”

I have seen the death of rock and roll and it is “Rock of Ages.”   I could see this story perhaps working as a Broadway musical, upon which it is based.  Today Broadway musicals have to be bland enough to attract a wide audience.  “Rock of Ages” certainly fits the bill.  However, as a movie, “Rock of Ages” is trite, corny, unbearably predictable and way too long. 

The film’s concept is to force 1980’s rock ballads into a narrative, an idea which has never worked for me. Similar, previous examples, include Julie Taymor’s “Across the Universe” (2007) where a story was crafted from Beatles’ songs, and “Moulin Rouge!” (2001), in which 20th century pop hits were fit into a story set in the Paris of the 1900’s.  This idea always feels forced, plus I feel a little cheated.  I mean couldn’t I just go to YouTube and listen to these songs, performed by the original artists no less?

In terms of story, “Rock of Ages” boasts a well-worn tale about a small town girl (cue Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’”) named Sherrie (Julianne Hough) who arrives in Hollywood to make it as a singer.  She meets and falls for Drew (Diego Bonets) an aspiring musician working as a bus boy in a legendary rock and roll bar, The Bourbon Room.

The story has two conflicts, neither one of which is capable of supporting the film’s slightly north of two hour running time. In one, Patricia Whitmore (Catherine Zeta-Jones), the uptight wife of a conservative politician, starts a campaign to close down The Bourbon Room.  So, it’s the tired old “those kids and their rock and roll” conflict. The “no fun” establishment people go against the cool rock and rollers, who, obviously, want to keep the club open.  If you can’t tell within 10 seconds who will emerge victorious then you most likely have never been to a movie.  I would not have minded this simplistic conflict so much if I could have been spared the groan inducing spectacle of Jones and company breaking into Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It” while Russell Brand (playing Lonny, a cool rock and roller) and company belt back Starship’s “We Built this City (on rock and roll).” The only thing more egregious than this occurred earlier in the film, when Jones and company broke into a wince inducing, aerobics routine inspired, song and dance rendition of Pat Benatar’s “Hit Me with Your Best Shot,” that took place in a church.

The film’s other conflict involves a misunderstanding between its young lovers.  I wont give it away except to point out that this dubious snafu could have been cleared up if Drew and Sherrie had simply  had a 30 second conversation, but, of course, they do not.  As a result we are made to wait until the movie’s end for the, amazingly predictable, resolution.

No less a movie star than Tom Cruise appears as Stacee Jaxx an egotistical glam rock God.  Jaxx is such a self-absorbed, unpleasant individual that I have no idea why Cruise even wanted to play this part…hmmm.  I spent most of the film trying to decide if Cruise was doing a good job playing a jerk or just giving a lousy performance.  The role is truly thankless.

The cast also includes versatile actor Paul Giamati as Jaxx’s manager, Paul Gill.  The role is a cliché of a sleazy manager that I am sure an actor of  Giamati’s talent  could do in his sleep.  I hope that Giamati cashed an easy paycheck for this one.

The film’s only saving grace is a funny duet of REO Speedwagon’s “I Can’t Fight this Feeling Anymore,” performed by Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand.  Baldwin seems to know what he has gotten himself into with this film and has the sense of humor to ride it out.

In terms of editing, there is just too much and yet, at the same time, not enough.  “Rock of Ages” receives my usual complaint about contemporary movie musicals (what few there are). It has too many cuts.  The film looks as if it has been edited by a Cuisinart.  Just have the camera pull back and show me the performer, or performers, from head to toe, in one shot.  As for its over all length, the film should have been cut to 90 minutes.  At its current length it is just too bloated.

“Rock of Ages” is playing locally at Regal Cinemas Union Square Stadium 14 at 850 Broadway and AMC Loews Kips Bay 15, 570 2nd Avenue.

Rock of Ages, Director Adam Shankman, 2012,

Warner Bros. Pictures,  123 minutes, PG-13

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About unpaidfilmcritic

Up until 2009 Seth Shire spent nearly two decades in the New York film industry as a post production supervisor of feature films. Highlights include working on the films of Martin Scorsese, James Toback and Spike Lee. Since leaving the film industry Seth has expanded into new and varied areas where he has found a great deal of satisfaction. Seth currently teaches in the Sociology Department of CUNY Queens College. His courses include "Mass Media and Popular Culture," "Introduction to Sociology," and "Sociology of Cinema" where he is a very popular teacher. Seth is also the film critic for "Town & Village," a Manhattan weekly newspaper, a position he has held for the past six years. Seth gives back to his community through volunteer teaching at Manhattan's "The Caring Community," a center for senior citizens, where he teaches a very popular course on documentaries called "The Golden Age of the Documentary. In the fall of 2010 Seth taught "Critical Reading and Writing" at Parsons School of Design. He has also taught "Cinema Studies" at the New York Film Academy. Seth lives in Stuyvesant Town, in Manhattan.

Posted on June 19, 2012, in New, What were they thinking? and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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