Rock of Ages brings the Broadway hit to the big screen, and they do it in the best possible way: dripping with cheese.
I never saw the stage version of this, but now that I have seen the film, I think that I would like to. The story here is simple enough, a young girl heading out to Hollywood with stars in her eyes, where she meets up with her love interest and begins working at the biggest rock bar on the Strip. Here she is able to meet the whole cast of characters, including the burning-out rock star Stacee Jaxx, the biggest thing in music. It is a love story, and a story about fame, as one would expect. There is nothing new here, or particularly original. In fact, the whole film is very predictable and the plot is pretty lame.
But I loved it.
The first thing to discuss in a musical is, of course, the music. It is fantastic. Loaded with rock hits from the 1980’s, Rock of Ages brings new life to the songs, pumping them up, and often, creating them into new, likable, mashups. Probably due to the massive success of Glee, the mashup is an enjoyable new way to listen to old favorites. There is something pretty cool about hearing opposing sides of the street wailing on a version of “We Built This City” crammed together with “We’re Not Gonna Take It.” It’s fun. And that is all that this film tries to be. Fun. If the audience has a good time, then they have really done their job. They are not trying to recreate the musical genre, or provide us with an in-depth look at the perils of the ever-changing music industry. They just want us to laugh a little, and sit back and enjoy the music.
The acting here, while not terribly good, is still fun. The headliner is the beautiful Julianne Hough, who has demonstrated before that she is not the greatest actress, but she makes some movies that are just plain entertaining (I’m looking at you, Footloose). She is always nice to look at, and has a pretty solid voice. She does a reasonably convincing job of portraying the hayseed from Oklahoma that has big dreams when she heads out West. Other stars have smaller roles, such as Catherine Zeta-Jones, Bryan Cranston, Alec Baldwin, and Russel Brand. They all get the chance to belt out some hits, as well. Some are great, some are misses, but overall, it seems like they had a good time putting this onto film. And that comes across to the audience, which makes the whole thing that much more lovable. They are having a good time, and so are we.
A highlight has to be Tom Cruise as Stacee Jaxx. His performance is creepily convincing, as his rock god status is spiraling out of control at the bottom of a bottle, mixed in with groupies, as he is nearing the start of his solo career. Cruise is fun in this role, emulating Jim Morrison and Axl Rose in his stage performances and general demeanor. Love him or hate him, he works in this movie, and by the end, you have a tough time hating Jaxx, even though we probably should.
A little bit Coyote Ugly, a little bit Showgirls, a bit of the “Welcome to the Jungle” music video all mixed together gives us what Rock of Ages is: a fun musical with great tunes. Nothing too complex, nothing too life-changing. Kind of like the 80’s: just a good time.