Review: Rock of Ages
At over two hours long, ‘Rock of Ages’ is a bloated, scattered movie. With too many characters in half-baked story lines and about 5 songs too many, it’s not for the inattentive or disintered. And yet, ‘Rock of Ages’ succeeds at being a silly, campy, and disposable musical, which is all it’s trying to be.
The film follows the most rudimentary of plots, going as far as to start with a plucky, small town upstart getting off the bus in LA, and diverting our attention with the plan to shut down a popular rock venue. It’s nothing you haven’t seen before and it has more in common with ‘Hairspray’ than just hairspray (wich was also directed by Adam Shankman). In the long run, the 60s version, with original songs, is more enjoyable as it fully embraces its camp and self awareness, but ‘Rock of Ages’ certainly gives it a go. It never gets to fully-committed, fantastical level of ‘Hairspray’, but boy, does it try.
'Rock of Ages' is never as funny as it hopes it is. The A-listers are hamming it up (to various degrees of success), and while there are a handful laughs, it's not consistently comical. That's not to say they don't work for it. It never fails to amaze me at how committed Tom Cruise can be. Russell Brand's timing adds a ton, as does Alec Baldwin's, and bit parts from Bryan Cranston (who gives another underwear appearanc), TJ Miller, and Will Forte help a lot. Miller in particular is effortlessly funny where the rest are trying a bit too hard (for only one 2 minute scene). On the other hand, it relies a bit too heavily on a monkey for laughs.
When it comes to the music, you get what you pay for. Diego Boneta and Julianne Hough do a fine job carrying the load of the tunes (and there are a lot of them). The songs are undeniably rousing and catchy, and they work well in the setting. If you’re a fan of musicals there’s absolutely no reason you won’t like the abundant use of music in ‘Rock of Ages’, even when it’s completely superfluous. The more comfortable you are with the fact that it’s a jukebox musical, the easier it will all go down.
For a movie with a lot of suggestive sexual content, I am astounded that there isn’t an inch of cocaine to be found. How could you do a movie set in the hair metal scene of the 80s, at a rock club in Los Angeles, featuring the managers, barbacks, waitresses, rock stars, fans, strippers, and groupies of it all, and not even reference that drug. It makes no sense. I understand that the thing needed to be PG-13, but it really hurt the authenticity of the genre they’re trying to homage. At least, give it a subtle nod or indication that it’s around. What kind of bizarro-alternative, cocaine-less 1980s does this movie take place in? (Also by the movie’s rules, Journey doesn’t exist. I don’t know.)
While there are many more nitpicky flaws to call out, such as Mary J Blige’s character being nothing but a plot device who inexplicably sings group songs, in the end it’s not really worth it. ‘Rock of Ages’ is an often-times fun musical with several highlights and a good amount to like. Unfortunately, never enough to love.