The director, who may have never seen a movie besides his own, can’t quite decide what tone he would like the movie to take.
Rock of Ages is entertaining and occasionally funny, but it is also one of the worst movies to come out this year (and that is including Battleship). Whoever told Adam Shankman that he had the talent to be a director was a cruel individual; whoever keeps giving Shankman directing gigs is a moron. With a filmography that includes Bringing Down the House, The Wedding Planner, and Hairspray, Shankman has consistently shown that he has no clue what he is doing behind the camera. Rock of Ages is just one more piece of drivel that will get a pass because Shankman is (admittedly) a talented choreographer and Hollywood darling.
Based on the Broadway musical by Chris D’Arienzo, Rock of Ages is a “Monster Hits of the ’80s” mixtape with a very faint whiff of a story dictated by the film’s playlist. Sherrie (Julianne Hough) is just a small town girl from Oklahoma who hops a Greyhound bus to Los Angeles to make her dreams of becoming a singer come true. She meets Drew (Diego Boneta), a city boy who works as a bar back at the infamous Bourbon Room on the Sunset Strip. Drew gets Sherrie a job at the bar, which is owned by Dennis Dupree (Alec Baldwin), an aging rocker who may be having some tax trouble. Or not. The plot point is glossed over very quickly.
In an effort to raise the money he desperately needs (but maybe doesn’t), Dennis invites legendary rock god Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise) to perform with his band one last time before setting out on a solo career. Stacee, who has become so famous that he doesn’t know what to do with himself, barely registers that he is awake, but somehow manages to put on an amazing show when he is on stage. Oh, wait. Also, Drew wants to become a singer, so Sherrie arranges for him to open for Stacee. Sherrie wanted to be a singer, too, but that can wait. Oh, then Stacee meets his match in Constance Sack (Malin Akerman), a rock journalist for Rolling Stone. I almost forgot: Stacee’s manager Paul Gill (Paul Giamatti) is kind of shady, but we don’t know that until later. But he does take Drew on as a client after Drew thinks Sherrie had sex with Stacee. And apparently, the mayor (Bryan Cranston) and his wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones) are trying to close down the Bourbon Room because rock ’n’ roll is Satan’s music.
The movie’s pathetic screenplay is the least of its problems. Shankman, who may have never seen a movie besides his own, can’t quite decide what tone he would like the movie to take. There is nothing wrong with making a movie that isn’t serious. There is, though, something wrong with making a movie that doesn’t take itself seriously. Shankman alternates between slapstick, spoof, and Apatow-ian humor, never settling on one approach. He wants to make a movie akin to Talladega Nights or Step Brothers, but he is not Adam McKay and his cast does not have the comedic talent of Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly.
The soundtrack is, of course, fantastic, but unfortunately most of the cast sound like drunk karaoke performers. Hough, especially, has a voice more grating than a fork in a garbage disposal, evidenced by so much digital manipulation that she sounds almost exactly like Britney Spears. There’s no doubt that Rock of Ages would be amazing as a live musical, but Shankman’s attempt is more Muzak than rock music.
The only bright spot (and it is quite bright) is Cruise’s unbelievably badass performance as Stacee Jaxx. Not only does he overshadow every other actor, he blows them away in the vocal department, too, sounding like he’s been singing his whole life. He plays Stacee with the perfect amount of lunacy and ego. Cruise would be the only reason to see Rock of Ages, but the talent of one actor isn’t justification to contribute to the box office performance of this awful movie. | Matthew Newlin