Film Review: Rock of Ages

Rock of Ages is a musical romance comedy adaptation of the hit stage show, by Adam Shankman, director of Hairspray.

The story begins with Sherrie (Julianne Hough) stepping off the bus on her first night in LA to begin a career as a singer. After a somewhat unpleasant start, she meets Drew (Diego Boneta), also a singer, working in the famous Bourbon Bar in Hollywood, a vibrant, extravagant and notorious music venue and club.

Rock of Ages Film Review

In a bid to help down-and-out Sherrie, Drew convinces his boss Dennis (Alec Baldwin) to offer her a job until she finds her feet. As they spend time together, Drew and Sherrie quickly start a relationship, and just as things are going perfectly, Drew’s idol and rock superstar Stacie Jaxx (Tom Cruise) arrives to add complications.

This is back-dropped by the newly elected mayor (Bryan Cranston) attempts to close down the Bourbon club, much to the appeasement of his wife (Catherine Zeta Jones) with her own personal agenda for doing so.

Add to this a scheming band manager (Paul Giamatti), a possessive monkey, a primadonna rock god, evangelical protest groups and a hair-metal slash prog-rock soundtrack.

Rock of Ages is a fun, silly, incredibly corny film, and while there are plenty of musical numbers, it doesn’t deliver the sort of quality it probably could have done, especially considering some of the A-list names within the cast.

Alec Baldwin pretty much sleeps his way through, and others such as Paul Giamatti, Bryan Cranston or even Catherine Zeta-Jones look a bit awkward and out of place. Tom Cruise though does deserve credit for a pretty solid effort, as an Axl Rose-type rocker, his movement, mannerisms and attitude being near spot on.

Converting a musical to the silver screen can be difficult mainly because theatre has potential for audience participation: the cinema in contrast is usually a platform of one-way communication, and with this in mind, adaptations often lose some charm.

Generally speaking, you can forgive the ‘plot’ of a theatre production as the performances are what capture your attention, but cinema again is a little less forgiving.

Also, most of the film is about sex, sexual tension and allegory. It seems the female characters can’t resist the urges of their male counterparts: Shock. They should have called it Cock Of Ages: there’s young cock Drew, middle-aged cock Stacee and Russell Brand with a Birmingham accent, not the best decision in my opinion.

Despite being given most of the best lines in the film (very tongue-in-cheek and bawdy) I can’t help but think they are better received on stage. 

That said, fans of 80s and 90s rock music will relish in some (there’s some power ballads there, you’ve been warned!) of the songs that feature and I can see how it’s probably a lot of fun, and it is funny in places.

If you can get past the silly story and subplots the songs are nearly all sing-a-longs although I get the feeling the song choices are more popular in the states than in Blighty. 
As a romantic comedy I can understand how formulaic the genre can be so perhaps this is something the target demographic will overlook.

It has it’s appeal, and I believe it’ll be a success because of the cast, including the two newcomers in the main roles. I know it’s a musical, but I just couldn’t get past how predictable or tacky the film is. Mind you, with the huge cult-success of movies such as the Rocky Horror Show and Grease, and the TV series Glee, this film may still elevate itself to late night sing-alongs screenings.

Stranger things have happened.

Rock of Ages is released in the UK on June 13th