The 80′s holds a dear place to many, some would claim that it’s the last period of our history to have a distinct style and philosophy built around it. Rock of Ages is a whirlwind tour back through the years of popular rock anthems where dreams are big, and hair styles bigger!
Sherrie travels to Hollywood with a career in singing as her goal but after meeting Drew, she joins the crew of The Bourbon night club where she works her way up the fame ladder. Meanwhile Stacee Jaxx is set to play at the famous club as a farewell before going solo.
The foundation of Rock of Ages is simply a jukebox style play where all the character perform well known numbers that somewhat describe their predicament – this they do well. For someone who grew up on a lot of the hits contained in the film, it was an aural delight and frequently found myself mouthing the words and tapping my feet. But after a while my lips grew strained and my feet became lame as the film that started out with such power began to lose it’s soul over an amount of songs that could simply be described as overkill.
I’m not saying that the tunes weren’t appealing, the issue is that when the film gets strained due to the excessive soundtrack, it becomes little more than a concert and that is where Rock of Ages fails. There just isn’t enough story to sustain the film or enough personality to define the characters outside of being generic archetypes.
Tom Cruise as Jaxx really steals the show though with his absurdly outrageous character sketch of the so-called “rock god”, every scene the he headlines is utterly silly and when he isn’t inebriated, Jaxx takes part in hokey rituals and recitations of ethereal nuggets of Jaxx branded wisdom. Equally entertaining are supportting acts such as Alec Baldwin’s duo with Russel Brand as the owner of The Bourbon and Paul Giamatti’s role as Jaxx’s greasy agent. Sadly the main cast doesn’t make a compelling argument for the film – they’re simpletons and only shine when they perform.
The biggest tragedy is how short sighted the production is. When taking a stage show to the big screen, a director usually becomes energised to make the film grand in scope but Rock of Ages lacks any real ambition that couldn’t have been seen if it were live. The missed potential is a disappointment on it’s own but the entire film just seems inconsequential and at times convoluted with scenes that make no sense and story elements that are irrelevant to the final outcome.
The music is the high point, especially the more famous numbers from bands like AC DC and Twisted Sister – they get you off your seat and for that moment, Rock of Ages seems worthwhile. Is the music enough to justify the film? It all depends on what you want to get out of it – a hearty dose of 80′s visual culture and a playlist filled with your favourite rock tunes justifies a purchase
Rock of Ages rides on a wave of nostalgia, if it’s a constant song and dance that you’re looking for then this should hit the sweet spot multiple times but be warned that plot and characters aren’t particularly fun and only really serve as vehicles for the songs.
The Bottom Line
This musical is a blast from the past with an overwhelming array of karaoke style performances of hot tunes from back in the day. It blends the high energy of Rock music with the theatrical sensibilities of a Broadway musical and it succeeds at it – but we’re not sitting in a live theatre and that’s the biggest problem. The film is overly long at more than two hours and the overabundance of songs drag the film by the halfway mark without developing the characters into fully fledged, interesting people. Adam Shankman just doesn’t take advantage of the cinematic medium and doesn’t understand it’s drawbacks either.