Directed by: Adam Shankman
Produced by: Adam Shankman
Screenplay by: Justin Theroux
Based on: Rock of Ages by Chris D'Arienzo
Starring: Julianne Hough
Mary J. Blige
Music by: Adam Anders
Cinematography by: Bojan Bazelli
Editing by: Emma E. Hickox
Studio(s): Material Pictures
Distributed by: Warner Bros.
New Line Cinema
Release date(s): June 13, 2012 (United Kingdom - Ho Ho Hooray, we were the first to see this film!)
June 15, 2012 (United States)
Running time: 123 minutes
Country: United States
Budget: $75 million
Box office revenue (as of publication): $477, 322, 000
Right, so now I'm getting back into the thick of things with regards to reviewing this year. After this review, I will post my thoughts on the month of June and all the films that I have seen during that time period. Also, I've a few ideas on the way. Last year, I talked about a kind of 'fantasy film adaptation' idea, which I thought would be a bit of fun. On a similar note, my good friend at Danland Movies wrote an interesting article on the career of Adam Sandler (which can be found here: http://www.danlandmovies.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/being-adam-sandler-guide-to-most.html), so I might do a monthly article on a person in the film industry. I tried writing one on Armond White, which I may revise as I wasn't satisfied with what I wrote. So, in light of an increasing variety of activity on the blog, keep your eyes posted!
Up for consumption is Rock Of Ages, which sees 2007's Hairspray director Adam Shankman head an adaptation of a stage musical of the same name by Chris D'Arienzo, who has a part in the film's screenplay. As a fan of classic musicals like Singin' In The Rain and The Bohemian Girl, as well as recent fare such as Tim Burton's Sweeney Todd and Repo! The Genetic Opera, I was expecting a guiltily pleasurable rock-'n-roll musical. In 1987, Sherry Christian (Julianne Hough) travels from Oklahoma and Los Angeles to live her dreams of becoming a famous singer, and after being mugged, meets Drew Boley (Diego Boneta), who works at The Bourbon Room, a nightclub noted for many a popular gig. The expected plot machinations of these two aspiring young singers follows it's due course. The club's owner Dennis (Alec Baldwin) and his right-hand man Lonny (Russell Brand), faced with the trouble of unpaid taxes, take a gamble and book legendary band Arsenal, fronted by the troublesome frontman Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise). While all this is going on, Mayor Mike Whitemore's (Bryan Cranston) religious conservative wife Patricia (Catherine Zeta-Jones), who is fronting her own band of anti-rock demonstrators. So, as can be seen, there's a lot of plot to get through, so lets get right down to it.
Kicking off with the good, undoubtedly the highlight of this is Tom Cruise. Writhing about like some snake-like creature and coming off with some really out-there dialogue, his Stacee Jaxx is a genuine larger-than-life figure. His comic timing is excellent, and his performances of Wanted Dead Or Alive and I Want To Know What Love Is (with Malin Akerman) prove that he has a powerful singing voice. Furthermore, despite being a force of nature, Cruise does get to the core of this character as a tortured isolated soul, and it actually reminded me of Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler. Other things to like include the fact that the film is well-lit, and that it is a genuinely bizarre film. There were numerous occasions when I just sat there thinking "am I really seeing what I'm seeing?" That previously performance of I Want To Know What Love Is steams with both eroticism and humour, and really that should have been the tone for the entire film.
Unfortunately, it is not, for Rock Of Ages is, baldly, and completely without a shameful face, utter crap. I'll start off here on a slightly nitpicking note, but it must be mentioned that this is NOT, I repeat, NOT, a rock-'n-roll musical. This is 'pop-'n-roll,' the heaviest songs on the soundtrack being Wanted Dead Or Alive and Paradise City. The rest of it is plagued by some really bad eighties pop music (with the exception of Foreigner) that consists of hair bands, glam and just all-round boohick! Another note on the songs is the liberal use of Journey's Don't Stop Believin' as a sort of motif throughout the film. I'm sorry, I know no one has a claim on the use of specific songs in popular culture, but you're at least five years behind on The Sopranos and three years on Glee, who milked all the homage they could out of the track. As far as I'm concerned, I don't want to hear Don't Stop Believin' for another ten years in a feature film, for it's a great song being worn thin. There are other noteworthy issues with the film, but in particular, I did not connect with the leads. Now, I understand Julianne Hough is supposed to be cooker-cutter small-town girl, that's fine even if here voice is a bit too squeaky and irritating. The real problem in this equation is Diego Boneta. It brought to mind this fantastic video my friend sent me of Henry Rollins going off on contemporary rave and rock music, because Boneta is the epitome of what Rollins is getting at. There is no balls, energy or testosterone in his performances whatsoever. I mean, it's like watching one of the Jonas brothers sing Ronnie James 'MF-ing' Dio. Hell, if there was sing-off between Dio and Boneta, Dio's face would probably snap back like the Predator's mandibles and send this unholy-diver eunuch into another dimension because his voice doesn't belong in ours. Not to encourage slovenly and unhealthy behaviour, I have a lot respect for the straight-edge movement, but what this guy needs is two twenty-decks of Regals and a bottle of Jackie D before he gets onstage. He's so toneless that the voice is merely a perfunctory matter and they should have just got Pro Tools and mixed Autotone with a Vocoder, because that's how banal it sounds. Enough shitting on Boneta (though I'm not making any promises!), lets discuss the screenplay, because this is one of the messiest films I've seen in a long, long time. For starters, we have at least three (later four) story arcs, none of which are given enough time to legitimately develop an idea or sense of character. I feel like I'd have to make some funky spider diagram in order to figure what the hell is going, though the only conclusion that would bring me to with this level of transparency is that time is relative and there is no spoon. The whole thing is shoddy, flimsy and actually leaves you speechless and dumbfounded at how the hell this shit got passed for public consumption. Also, on a bias note, the only thing I was interested in was Tom Cruise's Bowie a la Cracked Actor schtick, which was genuine, interesting and had me thinking "Why isn't this the movie we are seeing?" Instead, we follow Hough and Banaleta's lame-ass story(s). Finally, I must address the tone that the film takes. It's a 12A certificated movie in the United Kingdom, but, at risk of sounding like a moral philanthropist, there are things clearly inappropriate for children, not that it's immoral, but they won't get it. On the one hand, you have some real dirty jokes, and then on the other you try to play towards a younger audience. I don't think you can have it both ways, because the dirtier stuff doesn't work on kids, and it doesn't go far enough for the adults. They should have just gone for the crass, R-rated rudefest it so wants to be, because it's obvious that the only reason the film was made to be a PG-13 was a bit of the extra ching. It's no secret I like my music raw, dirty and with sharp edges, but the key thing is a purity of honest emotion, and this film has none of that. It's a corporate, public image ("you never listen to a word that I said, you only seen me for the clothes that I wear"), shoe-shined, photogenic 'rock-'n-roll' that reeks of hipsterism, accessories and worst of all, there's no sense of genuine rebellion, rejection and acceptance of personal identity. I hated it!
Much as I like a good rant, this has been a painful review to write. In the interest of fairness, I have tried to recall what is good about it. Tom Cruise really is great, and I'd rather listen to perform Paradise City than Axl Rose these days, which is not saying much, but he can sing. Also, on account of that and some stuff like the I Want To Know What Love Is sequence, the film has, at a rough estimate between ten and fifteen minutes of a good movie. However, there is still the bulk of two hours that is absolutely terrible, and not even in a Passenger 57 ironic 'so bad, it's good' way, it is just awful. I'm convinced that Adam Shankman lost the plot, the producers saw a rough cut of the film, and like those guys who passed that ridiculously racist Intel advertisement, were so far removed from any degree of common-sense or humanity as a whole that they just put it out there anyway. Complete corporate crap, and that they have the gall to mention 'heavy metal' in relation to this film just makes me want to be sick! One of the guys from the Spill.com team made an excellent point in that this would be what rebellious music would sound like if the Nazis won World War II. It made a regression of my epilepsy from a controlled state into fits seem like a friend who is long overdue a welcoming hug. I just wanted to be a dribbling vegetable with The Magic Roundabout and Sesame Street themes in my head for all eternity. Quote me on this: "I'd rather have an epileptic seizure than watch Rock Of Ages again." The whole movie (not just the bad covers, I'm nitpicking), is completely soulless and full of corporate sheen and glow which serves as a metaphorical slot machine that flashes in my face "INSERT MONEY HERE!" Cue the fit!
The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 1.6/10
The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Bah! (Looking forward to purging myself of this beast with some good music. Flood by Tool is on the speakers at present!)