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About as Rock n' Roll as a jam sandwich with the crusts cut off
In 1987 Sherrie (Julianne Hough) sets off from her home in Oklahoma towards L.A with dreams of rock stardom. Almost as soon as she arrives she is mugged and helped by Drew (Diego Boneta) who works at the Bourbon Room, a Sunset Strip rock club. Sherrie gets a job at the club and she and Drew begin a relationship while both dreaming of becoming singers. Meanwhile the club's owner Dennis (Alec Baldwin) and his right hand man Lonny (Russell Brand) are struggling to keep the club open amid protests from the Mayor's wife Patricia Whitmore (Catherine Zeta-Jones). Rock legend Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise) of the band Arsenal is due to perform at the club with the hopes of beginning a solo carer, if he can get his head back in the game long enough to do so.
I'd read mixed reviews before seeing this film but I'm a fan of a lot of 80s rock music, from Iron Maiden to Metallica to Blue Cheer via Motley Crue, Motorhead and Pantera. Unfortunately this is not the sort of rock music you get with Rock of Ages. Instead you end up with the likes of Bon Jovi and Journey. This is not the type of music I enjoy, especially when the lyrics are used in place of dialogue in an annoying coming of age story. This film is about as much rock n' roll as a jam sandwich with the crusts removed.
The story is predictable and you can pretty much map out all the character arcs from their introduction. Catherine Zeta-Jones' character is meant to have a big twist/secret which I worked out within a few seconds of meeting her. Tom Cruise's Stacee Jaxx is like a composite rock singer with facets taken from the likes of Iggy Pop, Mick Jagger, Axl Rose and Anthony Kiedis. The worst characters though are the central characters of Sherrie and Drew, two wide eyed all American looking kids who are meant to be all about the rock and role but as Ice Cube says in 21 Jump Street look like "some kinda' Justin Beaver, Miley Cyrus muthas". No wonder rock died in the late 80s if this is the sort of people who inherited it. Drew plays an acoustic guitar for rock sake! Both are far too wholesome and clean cut.
The singing isn't too bad considering much of the cast aren't known for it. Diego Boneta who is apparently the Mexican Justin Beibers and Julianne Hough are great singers while Catherine Zeta-Jones has shown in Chicago that she is capable of hitting a note or two. Russell Brand and Alec Baldwin aren't exactly great but in no way embarrass themselves (Brosnan I'm talking to you). Malin Akerman is decent and even Paul Giamatti has a go. The biggest surprise though is Tom Cruise who as well as impersonating the look of a rock star also sounds a bit like one too. He, like Baldwin and Brand won't be winning any awards for singing but is very much listenable to. His acting performance is also quite good and I hope tongue in cheek. Pretty much all the cast seem to be having fun rather than taking themselves seriously but again Boneta and Hough seem to be playing it straight.
As well as music which wasn't to my taste, the dialogue was atrocious. Once again it was mainly the dialogue between the two central characters that was the worst and this was amplified by their wooden yet over the top acting. I honestly believe that there is a decent 90 minute film in here if you remove the two central characters completely and focus the story on Stacee Jaxx's and The Bourbon Room's problems. That part of the film was at least in part enjoyable but the two leads just sucked all the energy out of the film.
Other problems included Sherrie lamenting the fact that she had become a stripper despite wearing more clothes on the pole than she did out in the street and an awful sex scene between Cruise and Ackerman in which no attempt is even given to give the idea that they have taken their clothes off. I think the 12A Certificate really hampered the rock n' roll(ness) of the movie. The monkey was there for laughs but didn't provide me with any and I have no idea what the hell Russell Brand thought he was doing with that faux Brummie accent but it sounded ridiculous. Maybe in America it would sound alright but every word felt forced and wrong. His regular accent is quite rock n' roll so I don't know why he needed to bother. Something else that bugged me is the name Arsenal. The name already has obvious football connotations in this country so was a little distracting but that shouldn't be a major problem for most people.
Rock of Ages should have been a fun, silly comedy musical set at an important time for rock music but it is spoiled by terrible lead characters and actors, a bland script and poor choice of music.
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