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Rock of Ages: A Deliciously Flashy Trip

By on June 19, 2012
Tom Cruise as rockstar Stacee Jaxx. Photo: David James © 2012 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

Tom Cruise as rockstar Stacee Jaxx. Photo: David James © 2012 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

While Rock of Ages may be aimed at an audience nostalgic for ‘80s music, the talented cast and feel-good vibe make the movie a treat for anyone. Steven Tyler of Aerosmith, one of the bands covered in the film, once said the band believed “that anything that was worth doing was worth overdoing.” Director Adam Shankman’s Rock of Ages embraces that rock ‘n’ roll philosophy in every scene, with each cast member giving 110%.

That enthusiasm is most obvious in Tom Cruise’s fearless performance. He plays Stacee Jaxx, a disillusioned and desensitized rock icon searching for that perfect sound and, of course, real love. While that is all very serious business, Cruise displays a hilarious and mildly self-deprecating humour in all of his scenes. One scene in particular shows Stacee Jaxx and his love interest, reporter Constance Sack (Malin Akerman), singing “I Want to Know What Love Is” into each other’s various body parts and falling over each other on a pool table. Cruise seems to take his time with all his lines, pausing dramatically and having the audience hang on every lingering word. Perhaps the best surprise of his show-stealing performance is the fact that he can legitimately sing.

The story revolves around LA newcomer Sherri Christian (Julianne Hough) and barkeep Drew Boley (Diego Boneta) as they meet and fall in love. Both of them have typical Hollywood dreams of success and go through relatively predictable ups and downs throughout their romance. None of this is boring, though, as the soundtrack to their relationship is powerfully delivered through songs like “Waiting for a Girl Like You”, “More than Words/Heaven” and “Every Rose Has Its Thorn”. Hough is something of a musical veteran with movies like Footloose and Burlesque under her belt. The less experienced but talented Boneta also does a solid job.

LtoR: Russell Brand, Julianne Hough, Diego Boneta and Alec Baldwin. Photo: David James © 2012 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

“Taxes, they’re so un-rock ‘n’ roll.” Dennis Dupree (Alec Baldwin), the weary owner of the Bourbon Room, complains during one of the many entertaining scenes he shares with his very affectionate pal Lonny Barnett (Russell Brand). The two of them spend a lot of time biting their nails over finances and being terrorized by Paul Gill (Paul Giamatti), the slimy manager of Stacee Jaxx. Since the Bourbon Room’s future success hinges on Stacee Jaxx performing, the club owners are essentially at Gill’s mercy. The unlikeable manager carries his extra-large cell phone in a pouch slung over his shoulder, and values fame above everything else.

The Bourbon Room is also threatened by a protesting group of church-attending ladies led by Patricia Whitmore (Catherine Zeta-Jones). She hates everything about the music venue and holds a long-standing grudge against Stacee Jaxx. Her best number is her rendition of “Hit Me With Your Best Shot”, performed with dancing that brims with a twitchy attitude. The woman scorned later takes on Russell Brand’s character in a mash-up of “We Built This City” and “We’re Not Gonna Take It.

Dennis (Alec Baldwin) tentatively approaches Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise). Photo: David James © 2012 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

Based on the successful Broadway musical with the same name, the film is written by Justin Theroux (Iron Man 2), Allan Loeb (Just Go With It) and Chris D’Arienzo. The movie has been getting mixed reviews, but with complaints like “random breaking into song” and “egotistical”, one has to wonder if they understood what movie genre and musical era they were going to see. Bands like Bon Jovi, Def Leppard and Guns N’ Roses aren’t exactly known for subtlety or restraint. While the humour may be mostly satirical, the film is very self-aware and the actors are in on it. Perhaps that teasing playfulness is what makes Rock of Ages so charmingly endearing.

The film, like the bands it pays homage to, is deliciously flashy and energizing. I wish you luck walking away without getting one of those catchy songs stuck in your head and recommend you enjoy the unabashed spectacle on the big screen.