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Capone's not going to take it! Despite a solid Tom Cruise performance, ROCK OF AGES wallows in mediocrity.

Published at: June 15, 2012, 3:36 a.m. CST

Hey everyone. Capone in Chicago here.

The only thing more frustrating that sitting through an overlong, cliche-driven jukebox musical is watching one that has one truly strong performance surrounded by mediocrity. Tom Cruise has forsaken all of us at one point or another over the years, but when he pulls out something inspired, I am compelled to give him credit, and I do so happily.

ROCK OF AGES is a collection of familiar '80s hard rock songs and power ballads with a plot that is a small part FOOTLOOSE and a whole lot of familiar, tired music industry stereotypes that have so little to do with actually loving this music (assuming those who go to see this movie based on a stage musical do). People give speeches about loving music and the transformative power of rock 'n' roll. They wear variations on the rock star uniform and pushing forth a very paint-by-number approach to both the acting and the music performances.

But when Tom Cruise enters the film as Stacee Jaxx, a rock band front man about to break out as a solo act, a light comes on that is undeniably bright. Sporting a look that is right out of the closet of earl Axl Rose, Jaxx is a comedy creation. We are meant to find him ridiculous when he's off stage. He and his pet monkey Hey Man are a force of sexual magnetism, even if you have to stifle a bit of laughter to see it. But when Cruise launches into song (the most memorable being Bon Jovi's "Wanted Dead or Alive"), it's tough not to be impressed, with both his singing voice and his inherent rock star persona. And for those scattered chunks of time in ROCK OF AGES , you forget that eventually Cruise will stop singing, and we'll be forced to endure the rest of this meandering, silly endeavor.

Rock of Ages isn't really about Stacee Jaxx. It's about star-crossed young singers who find each other in a Sunset Strip rock bar where Drew (Diego Boneta) works. When small town girl Sherrie Christian (Julianne Hough of the FOOTLOOSE remake) gets off the bus and lands up in the club, it isn't long before she too gets a job there, and the romance begins. Now you have to understand, just to get to this point in the plot we have endured about five or six songs from the likes of Foreigner, Night Ranger, Def Leppard, Poison, Pat Benatar, REO Speedwagon, Night Ranger, Twisted Sister, Journey, and Quarterflash (wait, what?). And very few of the actors embarrass themselves as singers (with the exception of Alec Baldwin as the club's owner; he's tone deaf). But actors like Russell Brand, Malin Akerman, and Catherine Zeta-Jones (who already exercised her ample singing chops in CHICAGO) join the ranks of Mary J. Blige (one of the actual singers in the film) to belt out this lively set of song choices, which basically boil down to either love song or anti-establishment anthem.

But the issues with this film are with its empty-headed story, in which characters emotions and common sense ebb and flow with the consistency of, well, without an consistency at all. And the song-song-song approach to this movie really cuts down on any time that might be devoted to me a shit about any of these characters. Through a stupid set of circumstances, Drew get a chance to play with his band in front of a crowd full of Jaxx fans, and Jaxx's manager (Paul Giamatti) offers him a management contract with the promise of stardom. This causes a riff between Drew and Sherrie that leads her to leave the club and begin life as a stripper in a club run by Blige, who convinces Sherrie (and no one in the audience) that being on the pole is a life of dignity and true womanhood. Okay...

Directed by Adam Shankman (who did the far superior film version of HAIRSPRAY), ROCK OF AGES feels crowded and sloppy, as if it has an open hostility toward its audience. I blame karaoke and "Glee" (episodes of which Shankman has directed) for this movie even existing. No, this is more the Shankman that gave us CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN 2 and THE PACIFIER. The jokes fall flat, the observations about the rock lifestyle seem about as believable as the idea of Malin Ackerman as an uptight, shy Rolling Stone writer doing a story on Jaxx. You know how you can tell she's a writer? She wears glasses. And naturally Jaxx turns her into his love monkey (perhaps named Hey Now).

When all is said and done, ROCK OF AGES just wants you to sing along, and that can be a whole lot of fun. But when you start burdening your movie with asinine subplot about a parental/religious group (led by Jones, playing the wife of politician Bryan Cranston) cracking down on disgusting musicians like Jaxx, you just have to endure the stupidity and wait for another familiar tune to come around. I'm certainly not knocking the music; you might even find a Def Leppard album or six in my collection. But when you're telling a rock 'n roll romance with characters featuring not an ounce rebellious spirit, you know you're in for a long tedious time at the movies. You devoted Cruise fans will be satisfied; the rest of you will be hitting some sour notes.



-- Steve Prokopy
"Capone"
capone@aintitcool.com
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Readers Talkback

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  • June 15, 2012, 3:49 a.m. CST

    First?!

    by Hat Man

    That's a first.

  • June 15, 2012, 3:54 a.m. CST

    I fucking hate hair metal.

    by loafroaster

  • June 15, 2012, 4:35 a.m. CST

    The only way I'd see this is if Bryan Cranston halfway through

    by tomdolan04

    said 'fuck this' and started cooking up crystal meth. <p> Tom Cruise to play Jessie, YO BITCH

  • June 15, 2012, 5:45 a.m. CST

    Shankman blows

    by Paul Macadom

    Hairspray was from Cheaper By The Dozen Shankman - you just didn't notice because the source material is infinitely better. It's a hideous movie - the direction is fucking dreadful, the cinematography is hideous. It's a sanitized and fluffified version of a much wittier musical

  • June 15, 2012, 6:09 a.m. CST

    I'm probably showing my age here, but screw it, here it comes...

    by iamatroll

    NOTE: I actually posted this on another review of "Rock of Ages" here on AICN, but wanted to put it here too, to get this particular point of view out there for all to see. If you've read this already, skip it. If not, read on... I'm a professional club jock working at a "Gentlemen's Club" in the greater Cleveland, Ohio area. [Go Browns!] And every day, I play all of this type of music referenced and heard in "Rock of Ages". And you know what? All of us at the club LOVE IT! Why? Because this is OUR MUSIC! We grew up on this music. Had our dreams to it. Fell in love to it. Learned about sex, drugs and rock and roll to it. Everybody at our club lives and breathes 80's rock and roll. We are the generation of Reaganomics, "Greed is good," Classic Coke, Rubiks Cube, Atari and Nintendo, and big hair and bombastic guitar solos. All of us, from the dancers to the patrons to yours truly, groove on a daily basis to Motley Crue's "Girls Girls Girls", Poison's "I Want Action" and yep, even KISS' "Lick It Up"! BTW, Gene Simmons is a god, bow down to him, infidels... The point is, just as thrash metal and the Internet is near and dear to some of you younger folks, the 80's in general and 80's rock and roll in particular is every bit as precious and heartfelt to us. Sure, it's easy in this day and age to point and laugh and say "damn, that 80's music sure was lame wasn't it?" But you know what? In twenty years, when "Generation Meh" hits THIER forties, their kids, or at least the kids of that time yet to come, will be goofing on what some of you think is the cat's ass right now at this time in your lives. And you're probably going to feel nostalgic and protective of this time that means so much to you, just as we of the 80's feel so deeply for that which was such an important part of our lives not too long ago... I've yet to see "Rock of Ages" but you know what? I think I'm gonna make it a point to check it out this weekend, just to revisit that time and music that was such an integral part of MY generation's lives. Rag on it all you want, but just remember, what goes around comes around, all that was old will be new again, and in the immortal words of Twisted Sister: "YOU CAN'T STOP ROCK AND ROLL!!!" See ya!

  • June 15, 2012, 6:19 a.m. CST

    I'll see the actual musical instead.

    by hst666

    At least the songs are more memorable than those in Wicked (whose story was great and I am sure much better than the story in RoA, but I don't know anyone who can hum a song from Wicked 15 minutes after seeing it).

  • June 15, 2012, 6:30 a.m. CST

    STREETS OF FIRE is how you do an 80s rock movie

    by Spandau Belly

    This is how you do a GUITAR HERO movie.

  • June 15, 2012, 6:35 a.m. CST

    Earl Axl Rose?

    by MotherPussBucket

    I didn't realise he was nobility.

  • June 15, 2012, 7:32 a.m. CST

    Cruise is a revelation

    by tyler_turden

    The dude isn't human. My take http://thecrat.com/movie-reviews/rock-of-ages-review-by-adam/

  • June 15, 2012, 7:41 a.m. CST

    Saw this yesterday - and it was great

    by Korrom

    Well, I have to swim against the stream here. Saw this yesterday and had a great time. Sure, the criticism is mostly right. It is a cliché ridden and completely airheaded story with music industry, "christian parent group", rock star and youth stereotypes that do and say absolutely predictable things. I also think that this is beside the point here. Oh, and of course the songs are predictable, too. There's a good chance that, without having seen the movie or having read about it, one could name 90% of the songs they are going to perform. So what? What the movie delivers is a good time. Period. I find it hard to complain about that.

  • June 15, 2012, 9:05 a.m. CST

    There's only one def leppard album you need

    by SenatorJeffersonSmith

    HYSTERIA the rest are just filler

  • June 15, 2012, 9:07 a.m. CST

    "you might even find a Def Leppard album or six in my collection."

    by buggerbugger

    I can't imagine browsing as far as the letter D in a record collection that has Def Leppard in it.

  • June 15, 2012, 9:13 a.m. CST

    "Earl Axl Rose? I didn't realise he was nobility."

    by buggerbugger

    Maybe it's got a silent 'k' at the beginning?

  • June 15, 2012, 9:23 a.m. CST

    Glee for 48 year old housewives who used to party in leopard unitards

    by Michael Lunney

    not that there is anything wrong with that!

  • June 15, 2012, 10:49 a.m. CST

    Saw This at a Press Screening on Tuesday and COMPLETELY Disagree . .

    by Sluggolicious

    This movie is exactly what it bills itself as . . a silly, goofy, fun time at the movies. Despite this film's very modest promise, I guess Capone (for no reason whatosever) was hoping for something grandeur and expecting an injection of real drama. The plot only serves to provide reason for the next song and has no pretensions of being anything but that. There are a few laughs along the way and a hysterical, and spot-on, mocking of 80s boy-bands. My only complaint, really, ia that the film simply eliminates at least three of the stage productions more somber plot points in favor of a lighter, breezier story where almost nothing's ever really at stake.

  • June 15, 2012, 11:53 a.m. CST

    The movie is a lot of fun.

    by cinemixtape.com

    Like a few other talkbackers have said, I had a really good time with it. There's almost no story, but most of the musical numbers are very entertaining. It does exactly what it's supposed to do.

  • June 15, 2012, 1:35 p.m. CST

    I refuse to watch anything with Catherine Z Jones

    by clancy021061

    The End

  • June 15, 2012, 2:07 p.m. CST

    @senatorjeffersonsmith PYROMANIA is their Best Album.

    by Drunken Busboy

    HYSTERIA is when they totally sold out and went formula on everyone. It is a good album but a bit over polished on the production side. PYROMANIA is a more purer Rock album!

  • June 15, 2012, 2:46 p.m. CST

    I will go see this

    by Party_Animal_IV

    For a fee of $300 cash.

  • June 15, 2012, 2:56 p.m. CST

    C. Zeta Jones was great in Zorro

    by StatelyWayneManor

    Am I the only one who hates "Pour Some Sugar on Me"? Overproduced herbie metal.

  • June 15, 2012, 3:03 p.m. CST

    The 80s were fuckin awful.

    by LORDOFLIGHT

    Crap films, crap cars and crap music.

  • June 15, 2012, 3:07 p.m. CST

    80s COCK ROCK!

    by LORDOFLIGHT

    Is a steaming pile of horse manure. Band like Bon Jovi and Poison were dire. Glitzy vacuous crap with big hair and gimmicks like twirly guitars and drummers throwing their drumsticks in the air and catching them.

  • June 15, 2012, 3:28 p.m. CST

    lordoflight, crap films?

    by IronEagle74

    I'll agree with you on the music and cars, but there's a reason why Hollywood's desperation for quality is leading them to remaking every damn 80's movie. The 80's was probably the best decade for movies. Movies have progressively gotten worse since until the point we're at now, where any new concept is all about the CGI and 3D and good story-telling and acting are a distant memory. Believe what you want to believe though.

  • zing

  • June 15, 2012, 4:38 p.m. CST

    Capone, while I agree with your feelings on the movie....

    by Tangent

    you are supposed to be a god-damned professional. Re-read what you've written before posting and make sure it makes sense. There are a lot of errors here.

  • So, if you're going to see Tom and the monkey, you'll be disappointed.

  • June 15, 2012, 8:03 p.m. CST

    It's like they made a movie just for me

    by CherryValance

    I LOVE IT SO MUCH!!! The only way I'm not going back next week is if I die in the meantime. I agree that it's a film you're meant to sing a long to. And I did (quietly). Opening credits to ending credits. I had the time of my life! Goddamn it. This is what movies are supposed to do. Entertain you. Let you leave the world behind. And it works. If you really think about how they strung the songs together and got an actual plot that makes sense out of it, it's impressive. Everyone was great in it. Even that lead kid I don't know. I think Capone has hardened his heart. He must have swallowed his tears. So I'm gonna turn and leave him here. :p There is a scene where Russell Brand is about to say something, well sing something, to Alec Baldwin. If you love late 80s hair metal ballads when those first few notes start you will bust a gut from laughter before he even sings a note. If you couldn't recognize that song in 3 notes, this movie probably isn't for you. I expect people younger than 35 to be like "WTF?" about this movie unless they just happen to like musicals or have a parents who met backstage at a Winger concert and raised them on the stuff. But for a certain kind of person, like those of us who owned more than one pair of spandex pants, this is perfect.

  • June 16, 2012, 2:27 a.m. CST

    Awful

    by tallsy

    I went into the movie wanting to like it as cheesy fun. Instead it's terribly boring and they take all the joy out of the music. I know Seacrest is powerful in Hollywood, but I wish he would stop giving his girlfriend work.

  • June 16, 2012, 2:08 p.m. CST

    drunken busboy Pyromania

    by shane peterson

    has two songs, Rock of Ages and Foolin that are better than any song on Hysteria. But Hysteria is the stronger album. Barring a couple of filler tracks near the end, that album is consistently good.

  • Remember when Love Bites was on MTV every hour on the hour back then? uuuhhhggghhh

  • June 16, 2012, 8:12 p.m. CST

    iamatroll really like your take on this

    by Mark

    Iamatroll really like your take on this movie. Most of the songs to my mind weren't really rock and roll from that time. Tom Cruise was really amazing enjoyed both him and Alec Baldwins performances. Paul G was quite fun in this. Could have brought some Tina Turner songs or "Love is a Battlefield" when they introduced the strippers. I wish the movie went darker, it only bounced into the mid grays. It would have made the happier scenes seem more genuine. It was fun to see a Tower Records, and the jean jacket found it's time on the silver screen again. Fun to see the graffiti on the back of the Hollywood sign. Makes me want to learn more about the broadway version.

  • June 16, 2012, 9:43 p.m. CST

    Any songs by REM or The Replacements in it?

    by sundancekeed

    Those are pretty much the only two 80's bands that I cared anything about. It was a pretty vacuous decade, music-wise. Hair bands sucked.

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