Comics

On a Scale of One to Ten, Does THE ROCKER Rate an Eleven?

Published at: July 22, 2008, 2:10 a.m. CST

Beaks here... I've been thinking of the late summer comedies in terms of the big three (STEP BROTHERS, PINEAPPLE EXPRESS and TROPIC THUNDER), but Fox has been very confident with their roll-out of THE ROCKER (it premiered at CineVegas last month). I know the trailer is thoroughly underwhelming, but keep this in mind: the last time a Peter Cattaneo-directed comedy debuted in mid-August, it grossed $257 million worldwide and got nominated for Oscars. I'm not saying this is the next FULL MONTY, but Cattaneo does know his way around underdog material. At least, he did eleven years ago. Is Rainn Wilson Cattaneo's new Robert Carlyle? Let's see what Jubba gots to say...
Jubba here from the talkbacks - just got back from my Toronto advanced screening of "The Rocker" and wanted to share my review. AICN has been kind enough to use several of my past reviews (Tropic Thunder, The Strangers, etc...) and figured I'd give it another go since Dwight Schrute won't be rocking theatres until later next month. I'll have a few minor plot spoilers in this post, so if you're not keen on those, here's my review summed up: "The Rocker" is kind of like "School of Rock" on Ritalin: whenever things start getting out of control or overly creative (funny), they are reeled back in and made to focus on a fairly standard storyline (not as funny). Despite some big laughs at times, "The Rocker" sets up more jokes than it can deliver. The characters aren't quite as engaging as the kids in "School of Rock" and Rainn Wilson doesn't always cash in on the laughs, despite his over-the-top behavior at times. It's not terrible, but it's not outstanding either. Potential spoilers will start now, but they won't be huge. "The Rocker" follows Robert 'Fish' Fishman (Rainn Wilson, aka Dwight Schrute from "The Office") as he goes from 80's metal band Vesuvius' drummer to working at a call centre 20 years later, only to be recruited into his nephew's high school rock quartet named "A.D.D.". It sounds cheesy, but the way things are set up in the first act isn't too hokey and is one of the high points of the movie. The scene where Wilson's character parts ways with Vesuvius had the most laughs-per-scene ratio of the whole movie and there is a pretty great homage to Terminator 2 in there. If only the rest of the movie had been able to keep up this kind of pace. From here, we watch the band as they gain fame through accidental YouTube exposure, get signed to make an album, and go on tour. It loses steam on occasion, but there are enough laughs spread out over its running time to be fairly entertaining. Some people laughed a lot more than I did, others not as much…take that to mean whatever you like. Fishman's nephew's band, consisted of three members. His nephew, played by Josh Gadman (he was in 21), is the typical overweight kid with low self-esteem that needs someone to tell him to believe in himself and he'll be fine. He plays the keyboards. The lead singer and guitarist, played by relative newcomer (and actual musician) Teddy Geiger, is the dark and brooding poet with abandonment issues who just needs someone to tell him to believe in himself and he'll be fine. He actually sings the songs for much of the film's soundtrack. Finally the bassist, played by Emma Stone (Superbad), is the neo-goth-punk-hipster type who is unable to smile and just needs someone to tell her to find her own style and she'll be fine. She's kinda hot. These three aren't too bad. Gadman has some really funny moments and could give Jonah Hill a run for his money if they ever played brothers. Stone gets more to do here than she did in Superbad, which is a good thing, even if her mouth does some kind of weird lispy thing when she speaks. Geiger can't act as well as the other two, but he's clearly comfortable singing and playing the guitar for whatever that's worth. I do partly blame the writing for not giving any of these actors enough depth to work with. Rainn Wilson does his best to avoid making this movie seem like "Dwight on Drums". He is rowdy, he has a temper, and he likes to drum naked. He has some extremely funny scenes and his unwavering loyalty to his band is admirable. His pre-gig ritual is the only real gross-out joke of the movie, but it's pretty great…I won't spoil it any further. He takes on a fatherly role with the band members at times, lecturing/inspiring them to be comfortable with themselves in order to overcome their problems. His character, living in the past and wondering "what if?", also has to learn to grow up and live for the present. Life lessons all around and it does get a little repetitive. Overall, Wilson does a pretty good job as a comic lead, though I will again blame the writing for not giving him enough to do at times. He makes funny faces while playing the drums, but that can get old after seeing a few times. I won't go into details of the quality of the other actors here, but I'll say that everyone is adequate and everyone gets at least one quality laugh. The band's agent is crass and delivers some of the best one-liners I've heard in a while…some of his lines are better than this movie deserves at times since there's often nothing to follow them up with. One thing I never really enjoy is watching an on-screen "live" performance where you can tell that the music is clearly from a studio recording. I know why it's done, but I like it to at least be done well. To me, it's the audio equivalent of Tom Hanks' CG eyes in "The Polar Express" in that the music and vocals sound great, but there's a connection to real-life that's missing and can't quite bring me in. The songs themselves are okay, but nothing that you'll be humming your head after leaving the theatre, unless you pick up the soundtrack. It's a kind of bubblegum pop-punk rock that is pretty generic these days. Not terrible, but not great. Maybe just not my cup of tea. Overall, I'd say "The Rocker" is entertaining enough to sit through and has some great lines and some genuinely funny scenes that you won't forget. It didn't keep me laughing consistently the way "Tropic Thunder" did, and I wasn't able to relate to or empathize with the characters, for which I again blame the writing. This has a fairly predictable plot without any real surprises. I think responses will vary from people thinking it was a waste of their time to loving every second of it. If you have to see a movie with music in it this year, I'd suggest choosing this over "Mama Mia!" but if you have to see only one comedy, I'd go with "Tropic Thunder". "The Rocker" doesn't quite rock, but it holds its head above water long enough to deliver some memorable scenes, jokes, and male nudity. Not full frontal, thankfully. I'll be in the talkbacks to clarify anything, answer any questions, or take your abuse and "plant" accusations. -Jubba
Not enthusiastic, but not bad. The lack of Emma Stone love is disconcerting, but this almost sounds tolerable.

Readers Talkback

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  • July 22, 2008, 2:13 a.m. CST

    First?

    by Jed Black

    Everybody's gotta do it once.

  • July 22, 2008, 2:29 a.m. CST

    PLANT!

    by Xiphos_2

    just kidding dude.

  • July 22, 2008, 2:30 a.m. CST

    this review reads like e.e. cummings.

    by buster00

    the rocker was candy luminous...

  • July 22, 2008, 2:33 a.m. CST

    Welcome back, Planty McPlant!

    by Motoko Kusanagi

    We missed you.<p>Not.

  • July 22, 2008, 5:37 a.m. CST

    I was expecting to see a 'yes' or a 'no'...

    by ingloriousjedi

    To the answer of your question. You couldn't take that step could you. EPIC FAIL BEAKS.

  • July 22, 2008, 10:13 a.m. CST

    meh...

    by filmfanatic1

    if that's the positive review, then save your hard earned money.

  • July 22, 2008, 10:39 a.m. CST

    Get a clue, Beaks

    by ArcadianDS

    The average Joe Moviefan in the talkbacks is not going to be getting seats for back to back to back to back sneak previews for movies. Either this guy is a plant +1 or he's just better at reading empire onilne and rotten tomatoes than you are. Stop accepting 'sneak previews' from people who are clearly not actually present for any sneaking.<p> Any review whose biggest complaint about a movie is that the rock concert wasn't live is obviously a shill, and you should know better than to post it. What kind of IDIOT expects an in-movie rock concert to be taped live? seriously? Oh wait I know - AN IDIOT.

  • July 22, 2008, 10:48 a.m. CST

    Every other line in that review is one word.

    by tonagan

    Is anyone else seeing that formatting problem? It makes the review twice as long as it has to be.

  • July 22, 2008, 10:55 a.m. CST

    I'd like it to be funny

    by aversiontherapy2

  • July 22, 2008, 10:56 a.m. CST

    I'd like it to be funny

    by aversiontherapy2

    but it just doesn't look funny.

  • July 22, 2008, 11:16 a.m. CST

    ArcadianDS

    by Jubba

    I didn't expect it to be recorded live - I expected the audio to be mixed well so that it was at least possible to believe that the music was being made by the people on the screen and not different people in a studio. It shouldn't be as apparent as it is in this movie. Idiot.

  • July 22, 2008, 11:19 a.m. CST

    Also, they gave out free T-shirts

    by Jubba

    Everyone at the screening got free a T-shirt that says "I ONLY DRUM NAKED" with a picture of a naked drummer on it. That was kind of cool.

  • July 22, 2008, 11:29 a.m. CST

    The people who REALLY didn't like it....

    by Jubba

    were people who had come for another Tropic Thunder screening and got turned away because that show was already at capacity. The Rocker was a pretty lame consolation prize even with the free swag.

  • July 22, 2008, 11:57 a.m. CST

    Things "going to 11" is played WAY the fuck out.

    by Galactic

    I wanna bang Emma Stone. To the 11th power.

  • July 22, 2008, 11:59 a.m. CST

    Emma Stone will become the next Lindsay Lohan

    by Galactic

    I'm calling it. She's hot now, but fame will turn her into a crack-whore soon enough.

  • July 22, 2008, 12:15 p.m. CST

    Rainn Wilson is incredibly grating

    by beamish13

    He seems to thrive on cameras being on him continually, despite the fact that he can't really improvise material

  • July 22, 2008, 6:40 p.m. CST

    Great thing with "School of Rock,"

    by Yaw

    the music wasn't kitsch. Just good. This movie looks kitsch. But "the Full Monty" is pretty wonderful.

  • July 23, 2008, 8:03 a.m. CST

    Ugh

    by ventvox

    I saw this movie last week on a free preview. It sucked hard. I think this is the only movie that I have ever walked out of besides the Davinci Code. There are plenty of pedophile moments with the teens and ol' Rainn Wilson

  • July 23, 2008, 1:47 p.m. CST

    ventvox

    by Jubba

    pedophile moments? what the hell? he never even seems interested in them or younger fans..he has interest in the older groupies and the parents...did you walk out before the movie began?

  • July 23, 2008, 3:46 p.m. CST

    Coulda, Shoulda

    by Berkshire

    I saw this film last month at the Edinburgh Film fest. It was the 'mystery movie' on the wed night and Peter Cattaneo was in attendance (no Q&A unsurprisingly ). You know what, I liked it. Sure it would have been better R but they bottled it and settled for PG13 and hey I found it an Inoffensive, mainly funny, movie, albeit with a tendency for smaltz. Once you accept that it's not this years smash super-comedy and go with it, it's a cool little flick.

  • July 23, 2008, 4:31 p.m. CST

    jubba

    by ventvox

    I walked out an hour into this movie. It was unbearable, stale sitcomish jokes, just pure shit. The pedophile moment was when Rainn Wilson and Teddy Geiger were singing to each other in his car. fucking creepy.