Rock of Ages is the screen adaptation of the successful musical of the same name. The ostentatious and self-deprecating title clues you in on what to expect from this 80s nostalgia driven musical comedy about the sexual power of rock-n-roll. With a star-studded cast primped for box office gold, Tom Cruise, Katherine Zeta Jones, Alec Baldwin and Paul Giamatti lend their heavy weight presence alongside youngsters Diego Boneta, Julianne Hough, Russell Brand and Malin Akerman. It’s a rocking good time for a generation old enough to remeber the late 80s as it mockingly re-tunes the era to a more sanitised version that’s more about glam than grunge. While the narrative is ridiculously simple (a love story) and drawn in the broadest of outlines (starry eyed youngsters, aging rockers, etc), the film elicits a fair amount of sexual energy inspite of its PG rating. For this, Cruise, and he alone, is magnetic and utterly worth the price of admission. Those however looking for any sort of faithful re-telling of any of Rock’s ‘glory’ days, this is definately not your film, sorry dudes. Rock of Ages is more of a Hen’s Night of entertainment and that’s not a bad thing either.
I must confess I had no idea about this film. It’s aimed for the Popcorn masses of the Glee generation of which I cannot claim to know anything about. Though I am one that can say that being of a certain age, Rock of Ages’ 1987 setting was rather authentically represented. Should anyone else fondly remember the era that supposedly fashion forgot, they will no doubt appreciate some of the mistakes we all made. Double Denim was the norm and worn considerably higher I might add. As was our hair and I don’t mean just the girls. But I digress. Rock of Ages is a film aimed at mocking the era for its excesses. Rock music was still fully bloated by the 80s but now it had become both narcisstic and ridiculously self-indulgent. It was a thoroghly White middle class concern signing about, well, not much really, but most importantly it was making tons of money and still attracting legions of hopefuls from evey backwater town. For these broad themes, the movie does a fairly good job in telling a story. Luckily the stadium rock anthems help fill the narrative, while drawing attention to the delicious irony contained in the songs. Viewed through very simple and effective prism the film is a no-brainer, besides the roaring crowds help put you in the mood in the same way the canned laughter of the same era helped you laugh at the ridiculous.
Another thing to remember is that Rock music was also an easy and often target for the so-called “moral majority” of the public airwaves. The Regan and Thatcherite era gave us airheads like Tipper Gore (the now estranged wife of former vice president Al Gore) who went on very public and embarrassing crusades against the music industry because of the “profane language” in the music. In Rock of Ages we do get some of this comical hysteria when the pink suited pearl clutching Zeta Jones portays the zealous wife of a philandering Mayor who also goes on a similar tirade masking what it turns out to be her hidden desire. It’s all very silly, but she too gets down with a few numbers.
Pony tails and Armani Suits were the preserve of Drug Dealers and music executives in the 80s and Paul Giamatti is superbly cast as the sleazy manager of Rock Legend Stacee Jaxx (Cruise). Together they ensure the film’s comedy is grounded in more of their natural abilities, albeit with the aid of a psychopathic monkey. More so than the pantomine of the under-used Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand, whose characters are less enticing. It has to be said though, Brand is the most at home in this movie, given he looks just like the era and to this end he was perfectly cast.
Surprisingly the whole thing is a good time for those prepared to cut it a lot of slack and succumb to the indulgence. Cruise is by far the best thing about the film and for a man of 50 to pull off the sexual swagger and not take himself seriously (think Tropic of Thunder) – it’s worth checking out.
Rock of Ages is in cinemas 13th June 2012.
Director: Adam Shankman
Stars: Tom Cruise, Katherine Zeta Jones, Julianne Hough, Diego Boneta, Alec Baldwin, Russell Brand, Paul Giamatti
Runtime: 123 min