ROCK OF AGES' (PG-13) (2 STARS)
Written by Justin Theroux and Chris D'Arienzo
Directed by Adam Shankman
Actors: Julianne Hough, Diego Boneta, Tom Cruise, Alec Baldwin, Paul Giamatti,
Catherine Zeta Jones, Bryan Cranston, Russell Brand, Malin Ackerman, Kevin Nash
Man, I wanted to like "Rock of Ages"! I wanted to like it so much I tried to force myself to like it. I am a nut when it comes to Movie Musicals but "Rock of Ages" is sadly limp, clumsy and badly directed! There is a better movie on the fringes just dying to break out but surprisingly director Adam Shankman (Hairspray) can't film a musical?! Maybe it is the source material and I haven't seen the Broadway musical but I really think the play can't be good either or did the movie really screw this up? This story probably plays better on stage because this story is too skimpy and badly cliched for a movie .
The only actors who do anything competent here are Tom Cruise and Malin Ackerman because everyone else is either miscast or tripping over themselves. Everyone was worried that Cruise was miscast but we forget how great an actor Cruise is. I liked him here after I got used to his incoherent mutterings. Cruise plays Stacee Jaxx, a aging rock star modeled after Steven Tyler mostly. He is an arrogant ass who we are supposed to hate but can you hate a Cruise character on screen? I never have and I liked how Tom Cruise breathed sexiness and life to his character and he is the only one who can sing here. Yes I said it, Cruise can sing very well. His "Pour Some Sugar On Me" and "Wanted Dead or Alive" renditions were the only parts of the movie where I woke up.
The two leads are two of the most boring characters I have ever seen headline a musical or any type of movie. Most of the characters are cardboard and some actors try to breathe life into shallow characters. Julianne Hough, now starring in two weak muscicals after the "Footloose" catastrophe, plays Sherrie. Newcomer Diego Boneta plays Drew and Drew and Sherrie will be involved in a love story that uses the same terrible plot of misunderstanding and then finally reconciliation of their love that sitcoms use every week, bad sitcoms. Julianne Hough I thought could dance though she doesn't really do it here and she is too Jennifer Aniston light. Diego Boneta is very pretty and he shows some signs of life but really comes off as blah most of the time.
The plot is thin so they really can't do much with anything the actors are given. That leaves it up to the music and except for Cruise's two showstoppers the presentation of the singing made me really mad. When the movie starts off with a strong, roaring song they cut the number half way through and they do it to every song. Musicals are supposed to give you the whole song, not butcher the songs, these are not MTV videos for chrissakes. Then the movie mashes up two songs together which I like on "Glee" but here it annoyed me. The choreography is clumsy and I am shocked, Adam Shankman directed the wonderful "Hairspray" reboot but here I would have fired him after the first dailies.
Catherine Zeta Jones, so good in "Chicago" is weak here thanks to her lame character. Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand try but their characters suck and they are also involved in one of the most embarrassing musical numbers ever in a musical and I have seen "Xanadua"! The movie is cheesy but not in a good way and I couldn't figure out if some scenes were supposed to be funny and campy or serious. Add to that a slumming Bryan Cranston and a miscast Paul Giamatti, John Goodman would have been a better choice in Giamatti's role.
So why am I not giving this movie a lower rating when I sound like I hate it? Well first of all I love musicals so much I strain myself to find things I like. That being said, Tom Cruise is great here going from incoherent to better to the best thing in this movie. His two songs are showstoppers like I said, he looks great, is sexy and funny even though he isn't given much material to work on here. He brings more to the role than it deserves. Also I am loving Malin Ackerman who I always find sexy, beautiful and funny and here she is second best to Cruise. They are involved in a weird sex scene mixed with singing and they make it work even though Shankman tries to sabatoge it with his lame directing. "Rock of Ages" needed Tom Cruise because without him this could have been the biggest disaster in musical history.
P.S. For better muscials then "Rock of Ages" take your pick. I will do an article on musicals sometime but my favorites are "An American in Paris", "Fiddler on the Roof", "Jesus Christ Superstar", "All That Jazz", "Grease" and "Hair". "Jesus Christ Superstar" is a rock muscical that I wished "Rock of Ages" would have took notes from.