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Rock of Ages


rock of ages poster

Rock of Ages follows a small town girl (Julianne Hough) as she ventures into the grimy, sinful streets of Los Angeles during the height of rock n’ roll. Along the way she falls in love with the city boy (Diego Boneta), meets the rock legend oozing sex, filthy music, and sex (Tom Cruise), and essentially finds out starting from nothing in Los Angeles—even if you look like Hough—is not easy. An equally difficult task, apparently, is separating the story from its Broadway origins and creating a Hollywood film.

Grade:

C+

I am by no means well versed in musicals, but it seems the ones that receive critical acclaim upon making the transition to the big screen are the films capable of escaping the limits of a stage production. For theater, there is only so much that can be done with sets, effects, stunts (unless you’re Cirque du Soleil), costumes, and other production aspects required for a show. Meanwhile, movies have seemingly endless capabilities nowadays. Any character can be shaped or remade to do pretty much anything to fit the plot. Yet, Rock of Ages renounces these capabilities in an effort to, I assume, stay true to the source material.

rock-of-ages 1

By limiting the visuals to the same sort of choreographed stylings found on the stage, Rock of Ages limits its potential to stand alone as a movie. While viewing the film, I could not shake the notion that I was practically watching a recording of a stage production. There was no flare or cinematic accoutrements. All we get is the stage production, but with an all-star cast doing their best to be overdramatic.

This overacting comes with varying degrees of success too. Diego Boneta comes across as someone pretending to be a film actor, pretending to be a stage actor, pretending to be a film actor. It’s a layered performance, no doubt, but one that ends up being moderately unbearable. Catherine Zeta-Jones, in her continuing effort to destroy all credibility she had, forces intensity and fervor into scenes that simply required modest annoyance. There has to be a better way to be zealous and fanatical without contorting every expression in an attempt to create fire.

rock of ages 3

These ham-filled performances are counteracted brilliantly, and mercifully, by the tongue-in-cheek offerings of Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand, as the bar owner and his first mate—this takes on a different meaning upon viewing the film. Both actors seem to have found their comedic roles at this stage in their careers and see no reason to deviate from the winning formula, and who can blame them; it works here.

Now, for the words I never anticipated ever writing, uttering, or even thinking: Tom Cruise makes this movie worthwhile. I am not a Tom Cruise hater; I simply have never seen a movie, barring maybe Rain Man, where I felt Cruise vastly improved the film’s quality. Rock of Ages benefits immensely from Cruise’s over-the-top performance as rock genius Stacee Jaxx. From his absentminded psychobabble to his HR-busting way of feeling a woman’s pulse, Cruise embodies every cliché you’d expect to find from the classic rockers of the ‘70s. The best part is knowing Cruise enjoyed the role enough to take it seriously and make it work, while simultaneously having an incredible amount of fun with it.

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If it weren’t for Cruise’s drug- and alcohol-induced heroics, Rock of Ages would stand only as a chance to play the name-dropping game. Case in point: Bryan Cranston in a role seemingly built for people to go, “hey, Bryan Cranston is in this!” Further evidence: that sentence could include Paul Giamatti, Malin Akerman, Mary J. Blige, and a cornucopia of aging rock stars. Rock of Ages has a fun soundtrack and a group of zany characters, but it drags much too long and forces you to watch painfully choreographed dances—seriously, “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” is horrendously awkward.

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  1. May 31st, 2013

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