When the opening credits of Rock of Ages starts playing, the audience is immediately thrown into a time warp filled with large 1980s hair, overly-done blue eye shadow and leather jackets. In an upbeat and comedic style, many parts of this Broadway musical film adaptation are extremely well done, while many parts are almost a failure.
The film starts out in 1987 showing Sherrie Christian (Julianne Hough), a small town girl in a lonely world, who is on a bus from Oklahoma to L.A. to fulfill her dreams of becoming the world’s next big rock star. As soon as she steps off the bus and is mesmerized by the glowing lights of L.A. night life, she immediately has her suitcase stolen. Fear not, the city boy (and bartender) of her dreams, Drew Boley (Diego Boneta), comes running to her rescue. Seeing that she is a young and beautiful girl who literally just stepped off the bus on the Sunset Strip, his heart reaches out to her and convinces his boss, Dennis Dupree, (Alec Baldwin) to give her a job as a waitress at one of the most famous places in L.A., a nightclub called The Bourbon Room. Reluctantly, Dennis gives her a job and she’s off and running.
After the audience is introduced to Dennis, we find out that The Bourbon struggling financially in the worst of ways. In order to save the legendary Bourbon Room, Dennis books the 1980s rock band Arsenal for their last performance together as a band before lead singer and rock icon Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise) goes solo. After a business scam between Dennis and Stacee’s scumbag manager, Paul Gill (Paul Giamatti), sexual encounters between Stacee and a Rolling Stones journalist, Constance Sack (Malin Åkerman), and a huge miscommunication between Sherrie and Drew, the plot turns to many darker character – and cinematic – problems.
Adam Shankman’s adaptation of the 2006 Broadway musical of the same name either completely nails crucial parts of film, or aims and misses terribly. The story’s main downfall is the crammed and copious amount of sub-plots that don’t propel the story forward in any way. Only providing some comedic relief, the small plots of the unfaithful L.A. Mayor Mike Whitmore (Bryan Cranston) and his conservative wife Patricia Whitmore (Catherine Zeta-Jones), as well as Dennis’ right-hand man Lonny (Russell Brand) makes the audience questioning at the end of the film why their characters were even part of the story. Additionally, another downfall of Shankman’s adaptation was the casting of the two protagonists, characters Drew and Sherrie. Hough and Boneta’s underdeveloped acting skills made some scenes even more cheesy than originally written, and leaves the audience unsatisfied with the development of the main plot line.
That being said, the highlight of the entire film is Tom Cruise as the legendary Stacee Jaxx – a rock star who is consistently consuming alcohol and drugs and has the reputation of being extremely difficult to work with for those reasons. If you’re a Tom Cruise fan, then it’s worth seeing the entire film just for him. If today’s 2012 world didn’t know who Cruise actually is, it’d be easy to think he time-traveled straight from 1987, complete with black eyeliner and a perfectly acted psychedelic mind.
The soundtrack of the movie is also another high point of the film. Featuring songs and mashups from many 80s bands, including Styx, Journey, Bon Jovi, Pat Benatar, Twisted Sister, Steve Perry, Poison and Europe, the cast completely rocked out the masterpieces, and most pieces fit well with the plot. Additionally, Baldwin and Brand are surprisingly – and hilariously – fitting for the film, and they keep the audience on the edge of their seats, wanting to watch their scenes.
After a cliche and somewhat slow beginning, the movie picks up into mostly a fun and upbeat musical. If you live and breathe classic rock, are a huge fan of Tom Cruise, enjoy watching Russell Brand basically be himself, or appreciate musicals, then you’ll find this movie to be worth your time. Otherwise, it’s a cheesy musical with too many characters and sub-plots with one awesome character.
Rated: PG-13 (sexual content, suggestive dancing, some heavy drinking, and language)
Rock of Ages opens in theaters on June 15, 2012.