Director Adam Shankman is back with another big screen treatment of a hit Broadway show, trading in the doo-wops and beehives of Hairspray for the greasy mullets of ’80s jukebox tuner Rock of Ages. So what’s it about? Just a small town girl, Sherrie (Julianne Hough of Footloose, Dancing With the Stars), who arrives in Hollywood with big dreams of becoming a singer. She meets a rocker boy with a big heart, Drew Boley (Diego Boneta) who works at the legendary dingy dive called the Bourbon Room on the Sunset Strip. All madness ensues when the Bourbon Room becomes the venue for rock god Stacee Jaxx’s (Tom Cruise) last performance with his band Arsenal before going solo, along with a bunch of Bible-thumping mommas lead by the mayor’s wife, Patricia Whitmore (Catherine Zeta-Jones), threatening to close the joint down. And all of this pandemonium is set to the biggest hair rock anthems from the ’80s. Now does this movie rock? Read on!
The Good: Wow, this thing features an all-star cast, including Mary J. Blige, Alec Baldwin, Zeta-Jones, Russell Brand, and Paul Giamatti. The musical numbers are grandiose and slick, and it’s great to hear some inventive interpretations of classic ’80s rock hits. And I hate to admit it, but Cruise is probably the best thing about this movie.
The Gay: Tom Cruise’s body. Whoa, I don’t know which diet/exercise regimen that Scientology has him on but whatever it is, it worked! Plus, in one scene he rolls around in a bejeweled cod piece and jock strap, and is half naked most of the time. Also, latin up-and-comer Diego Boneta as leading boy Drew is a total cutie.
Don’t forget the diva representation here! Blige is fierce as strip club matron Justice Charlier, and so is Zeta-Jones as the devoutly driven Patricia. They both deliver fierce musical numbers that sparkle.
Plus, there is a bit of a gay romance that happens in the story. I won’t say who, but I think you could figure it out on your own (and no, it doesn’t involve Cruise!).
The Bad: Ugh, where to begin?! You’d think that something that’s based on a fun, campy stageshow featuring ’80s rock anthems would be easy to translate to the screen. Wrong. Something definitely got lost in translation. All the fun is zapped out of what could have been a great, campy thrill ride. A lot of the jokes fall flat, even from leading funnymen Baldwin and Brand. Also, the musical numbers, although big and glitzy, seem to have been given the Glee treatment, suffering from rampant misuses of AutoTune. Now if this movie is to be extolling the virtues of true rock and roll, it’s not very convincing when everything looks and sounds so polished.
The Fugly: The screenplay. Wow, what a mess. And can I say this entire movie is one big pile of fugly? Oh, I guess I just did.
Rock on, or roll away?: If you’re looking for a fun, campy musical filled with ’80s hair rock, save your pennies, head straight to Broadway, and see the far superior stage show. The movie version just isn’t fun. Rock of Ages is a rental, at best.
The Grade: C-