Rock of Ages - parody done half-rightJune 15, 2012 @ 1:35 pm (Updated: 2:17 pm - 6/15/12 )
"Rock of Ages" is a joke. And when the movie acts like it's a joke, it can be kinda fun. And when it doesn't, it's dumber than dumb.
Thankfully, most of the cast, especially Tom Cruise, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Alec Baldwin, and Russell Brand, are in on the joke. The poor romantic leads though, Julianne Hough and Diego Boneta, play it straight and come off rather badly.
The bare-bones plot involves a naive Oklahoma girl (Hough) who moves to LA and lands a job at a legendary rock and roll club, a club which happens to be fighting for its financial life. Adding to the club's troubles is the Mayor's wife (Zeta-Jones) who's campaigning to shut it down for rampant immorality. In a last-ditch effort to save the club, the uber-rock star Stacie Jaxx (Tom Cruise) throws a concert.
Most of the buzz about "Rock of Ages" centers on Tom Cruise. Can he sing? Does he embarrass himself? Well, the answers are yes and no, in that order. He sounds almost as good as the original 80's rockers he's emulating and he doesn't embarrass himself because he commits totally to the role. From the first time we see him, in assless leather chaps and a giant stainless steel skull over his crotch, Cruise owns the role. His performance is not only a send-up of rock gods, but also a sly bit of self-mockery that Cruise plays just right.
Even better than Cruise is Catherine Zeta-Jones. Her character is such an overdrawn cliche that I had no initial interest her. That all changed when she broke out into song and dance inside a church. When she and her fellow middle-aged matrons start doing an exaggerated dance routine to "Hit Me With Your Best Shot," the movie hits on just the right mix of celebration and parody.
Zeta-Jones is also involved in the other musical highlight of the film, the climactic battle in the street between the forces of rock freedom, led by club manager Russell Brand, and the forces of repression (the church ladies.) It's a perfectly executed mash-up of "We Built This City on Rock and Roll" and "We're not Gonna Take it."
If only there were more numbers like these two. Of the twenty songs in the show, I'd say about half of them are inspired enough to be enjoyable. The rest of them are pretty bland. Whether that's a good enough average to justify seeing the movie may depend on your tolerance for 80's rock.
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