mon 14/10/2019

Rock of Ages | reviews, news & interviews

Rock of Ages

Rock of Ages

Stage-to-screen transfer takes too long to party

From screen icon to 1980s rock god: Tom Cruise's Stacee Jaxx gets down and (kind of) dirty

There's nothing wrong with the film adaptation of the stage show Rock of Ages that more raunch and noise - oops, I meant noize - might not put right, assuming that an amiably dopy immersion in Eighties rock pop is your thing. One of those star-a-minute movies ("Look, there's Mary J Blige!"; "Wait, isn't that Catherine Zeta-Jones?") that may well have been more fun to make than it is to see, the director Adam Shankman enters into the flat-out silliness of the enterprise without fully embracing the correspondingly anarchic spirit. After all, how can you hope to deliver "Nothin' but a Good Time" without the thoroughgoing courage of your go-for-broke convictions? This is the first film in years where I've wanted to go into the projection booth and turn the volume up.  

Set in 1987 LA along a Sunset Strip whose debauchery has clearly got too much for some (Zeta-Jones plays the hip-swivelling embodiment of illiberal America, a role that isn't in the stage version), Rock of Ages exists for one reason: to encourage all concerned to let down their hair. The axiom is well-suited to a decade in which, tonsorially speaking, follicular grandeur was the order of the day. So it seems perverse to report that Hairspray director Shankman has made a strangely cautious movie that seems not to buy into the excesses that the material ostensibly wants to celebrate. It's as if the Greyhound bus seen at the start got off at the wrong exit, leaving the real party happening elsewhere.  

Baldwin and Brand smooch and sing in Rock of AgesThat vehicle, as it happens, is delivering to Hollywood the tellingly named Sherrie Christian (Julianne Hough), a wannabe singer from the Midwest who gets mugged within minutes of setting foot in the moral cesspit reviled by Zeta-Jones, cast as the mayor's puritanical (and hypocritical) wife. Left with seven bucks to her name, urban neophyte Sherrie might be expected to return home at the first opportunity but no! Before you can say "Don't Stop Believing", Sherrie has fallen hard for dimpled rocker-in-waiting, Drew (Diego Boneta), who lands her a job waitressing at a fiscally wayward venue run by Alec Baldwin's lank-haired Dennis Dupree. Russell Brand (pictured above right with Baldwin) pops up as Baldwin's bluntly spoken (would Brand play any other kind?) sidekick and, yes, lover, the two sharing both a smooch and a duet, the latter courtesy REO Speedwagon's "Can't Fight This Feeling". Nor do they. 

Hough and Boneta in Rock of Ages the filmDrew and Sherrie have a rather tougher time of it, between getting derailed into a boy band and a strip club, in turn. The first scenario hardly seems worth fussing about given a puppyish aspect to the large-eyed Boneta (pictured left with Hough) that doesn't exactly correspond with the back catalogue of Twisted Sister. (Oliver Tompsett in the ongoing West End production seems far more comfortable in the same role.) Sherrie's narrative detour brings the open-faced Hough into contact with Mary J Blige, though the R&B star suffers from editing that tends to cut away just as a song, or singer, is getting interesting. Blame that on prevailing assumptions about a public incapable of focusing for more than 30 seconds.

And what of the film's least likely casting: namely, Tom Cruise as the Axl Rose-esque Stacee Jaxx? Hurling himself into a variant on the image-transforming screen gig that served him well in both Magnolia and Tropic Thunder, Cruise lends his sweaty, bare-chested all to the sort of rock god who can barely move without snogging. (Sex being Stacee's thing, he remarks elsewhere to Zeta-Jones that her "tits have held up well".) I'm not sure Cruise's take on Bon Jovi's "Wanted Dead or Alive" would necessarily ensure him a place at London's next alfresco rockfest. But in a film marked by its own timidity, here is one participant who's not afraid to raise some good-natured hell.

Watch the trailer for Rock of Ages


The editing tends to cut away just as a song, or singer, is getting interesting

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Average: 2 (1 vote)

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