Rock Of Ages Review

I arrived fifteen minutes before the screening began and nestled in my seat, just above the chatter and the crunching mouthful’s of sweet and salty popcorn I can make out the backing tracks of every 80’s classics.

The films not even started, and already I have goosebumps. I’m head bopping to music I can barely hear and am sure the woman in front of me is going to regret choosing her seat as it feels like I’m toe tapping with the force of a localised earthquake.

Fast forward 123 minutes and I’m stumbling out of the screening clutching a novelty Stacee Jaxx pin and singing scorching Journey at the top of my lungs. What happens in-between is largely inconsequential; boy meets girl, they fall in love, things get complicated, Tom Cruise shows up with a monkey… and several other plot points occur in this story of sorts.

But for the most part the intervening two hours, where largely eighties power glossy music video montages punctuated by thankfully brief scenes where people tried to act. Welcome to Adam Shankman’s star studded extravaganza Rock Of Ages.

Based loosely on the musical of the same name by Chris D’Arienzo, Rock Of Ages is a lovely letter to LA in a bygone era where the hair was sprayed high and the people where drunk on their dreams. We start on a bus from nowhere and head to LA with Sherrie Christian (Julianne Hough) a girl who has set her sights on becoming a star.

With her we discover the Bourbon Room, a hot rocker club that dominates the sun set strip. Crewed by some crazy creatures, Sherrie manages to land a job as a waitress thanks to the handsome floppy haired hero Drew, played by Diego Boneta, who has Bambi’s brown eyes and the voice of a rocker.

Also working at the Bourbon we find Lonny (Russell Brand) and Dennis (Alec Baldwin), this film’s comedy relief duo, who when not guffawing about are trying desperately to keep the seemingly successful bar from falling into financial ruin.

While Drew and Sherrie are busy falling in love through some fantastic musical montages, Lonny and Dennis are trying to get the Bourbon ready for Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise) and Arsenal’s upcoming performance, the sell-out show that just might save the bar.

But Stacee Jaxx’s is a rocker on the edge, consumed by his own success the only man that seems to have any control over the rock god is his manager Paul Gill (Paul Giamatti) whose out more for the money then the sanity of his star.

The night of Arsenal’s big show promises to be the night where everyone’s dreams promise to come true; Drew’s band is going to be the open for Stacee, Sherrie gets to meet her idol and Dennis will be able to save the bar. Yet, before the night is over, assumptions double crossings and mistaken identities ruin everything.

Sherrie and Drew split up and while he goes off with Paul Gill to become the next big thing, Sherrie ends up as a pole dancer at Justice’s (Mary J. Blige) Venus Nightclub. Dennis and Lonny might still loose the Bourbon and Stacee’s rather exposed interview with an intrepid Rolling Stone reporter, Constance Sack (Malin Akerman) promises to un-make his rock god persona and show the world the sad and shy man underneath.

Will the music be able to save them; will the Bourbon stay open, Will Catherine Zeta-Jones (Patricia Whitmore) shoe horned into the plot character actually affect the story at all? But most importantly what’s going to happen to Sherrie, this small town girl, living in a lonely world who took the midnight train bus going anywhere to LA?

It’s not just the eighties power ballads that make this film a rip roaring enjoyable experience. All of the spectacular secondary characters deliver fantastic and often very funny performances that are constantly saving this film from the debacle of Julianne Hough and Diego Boneta.

Paul Giamatti, Alec Baldwin and Tom Cruise in particular shine, clearly relishing the fantastic costumes, cheesy dialogue and musical montages. They carry the film by embracing and working within the ludicrous ‘reality’ the film endeavours to create.

Yet the films two young stars, though they look and sound the part, are appalling to watch, almost ludicrously so. It might just be a senseless, musical filled, mostly plot-less two hour music video but in those rare narrative moments, Hough and Boneta nearly sink the whole film.

Ultimately, cheesy costumes, shiny editing, huge hair, an 80’s sound track and some a-list stars manage to make this cheese wiz film into an enjoyable summer experience.

Don’t go expecting anything and you won’t end up disappointed.

Shelton Lindsay

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June 2012
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