Monday, June 18, 2012

[IGH] at the Movies: Rock of Ages

The alternative title to this post is What the Frak Did I Just See?

Since I can't write this without some spoilers, be warned. There are SPOILERS in this.

Now that we've gotten that out of the way, Rock of Ages is a story 
"which uses 80s rock and heavy metal songs, features a young would-be couple, Drew and Sherrie, who meet while working in a famous rock and roll club in the Sunset Strip at the same time the city decides to raze the club for re-zoning. When a famous band that first made their name in the club returns to help by staging their farewell show, it sets up a series of events that sends both Drew and Sherrie spiraling into opposite directions in terms of their love and their dreams." (metalinjection)
Rock of Ages got its start on Broadway, and from what I understand, for the movie, the plot was considerably expanded. This could have been a great thing, but the general feeling was too many plot points with not enough depth leading to quick and unsatisfactory conclusions.  This was especially apparent with Tom Cruise's character, Stacee Jaxx, and Catherine Zeta-Jones' character, who was created specifically for the movie, Patricia Whitmore.

Patricia Whitmore was created to the voice of the opposition, all those people who were against rock music and its presumed bad influence. What could of been an interesting debate about how rock influences individuals was instead turned into a weak story of a bitter ex-groupie and her campaign for payback. That could have been fine if left at that, but the way Patricia Whitmore's character achieves resolution is very sudden, unexplained, and in my opinion, a little lame. There was a subplot involving her husband, played by the always fantastic and somewhat twisted, Bryan Cranston, that is never resolved and feels as if it was thrown in just to give Cranston something to do.

Stacee Jaxx is the jaded, complicated, difficult, boozy, lead singer of Arensal, the biggest rock band in the world. Stacee is everything you'd expect of a rock star, wait, scratch that, he's not a rock star; he's a rock legend. Women fall over him and do all other kinds of stuff to/with him. He even has a baboon (possibly the biggest breakout star of the movie). When he has to give an interview with Constance Sack (Malin Akerman) from Rolling Stone, she sees through his BS and calls him on it. This somehow gets through his facade and after she runs from him and his seductive ways, he supposedly can't stop thinking about her, except you don't really find that out until it's close to the end and he tries to call her in one of the funniest scenes of the entire movie. *Quick note - I have to give kudos to T.J. Miller for his work in that particular scene.* Anyway, again, the resolution with Stacee and Constance is very quick and barely explained. Come on, someone calls you on your BS when you're not used to it, fine, have sex with them, but you don't necessarily need to obsess with them. You're the superstar; you get stalked, not the other way around. Eh, maybe that just me.

This is what it is like for the entire story - too much, little depth and quick and easy resolutions. Even in musical theater terms, where everything moves quickly and fairly neatly, this was a little too quick and easy.

But what about the acting and music and all that good stuff?

I was pleasantly surprised by several actors, but before I get into that, let's talk the not so good.

Catherine Zeta-Jones is a wonderful singer and actress, but while she sounded great when she sang, her acting was over the top in a not-so-fun way and the choreography she and the other protesters were given was very odd. It was clunky and didn't fit and full of high kicks. This was not one of her better roles.

Alec Baldwin can carry a tune but he's no rocker. I really liked his story and his chemistry with Russell Brand was great. They are hilarious together but something about how Baldwin was acting was awkward. He's not a soft actor and watching him play a non-aggressive character didn't seem to suit him.

Julianne Hough is a decent singer and actress and phenomenal dancer, but while she did a good job as Sherrie, she's not a rocker. She has a great range but her voice is a little thin and she's known for being a country singer. Rock music is not her thing. Her singing was just too pretty and innocent for these songs. (I know Sherrie's an innocent character but it was too innocent.)

As for the other actors -

I hated Russell Brand's wig but loved his acting and singing. I was genuinely surprised by how much I enjoyed him in this. I've never been a huge Brand fan, but I would love to see him to more music.

Malin Akerman only sang briefly but she's got a great voice. I would have actually preferred her doing Sherrie's songs. Constance has a very small role, but she went for it. What she does with Tom Cruise is hilarious and mortifying and so awkward. Seriously, whoever thought to pair up "I Want to Know What Love is" with a dirty stripping scene is either clueless or genius. I honestly can't decide.

Mary J. Blige was perfection because she's Mary J. Blige. Hers was a small role but she made Justice a fully realized person, and when she sang, Mary did what she does best.

I had no idea who Diego Boneta was before this, but he is wonderful as Drew, the would-be rock star. He's got a great voice, is extremely charismatic, and just what the role needed. Also, his transformation later in the movie had me nearly peeing in my pants. 

Finally, I have to talk about Tom Cruise. I have a love/hate relationship with him. I used to love him, then he went all crazy, and I couldn't bring myself to support his work, then he was in Tropic Thunder and made me laugh so hard I felt like I needed to slowly give him another chance. After all, he went crazy but not Charlie Sheen crazy. More importantly, he is not afraid to make a fool of himself or laugh at himself. 

Cruise's performance for this movie was incredible. It's dark, weird, twisted, and kind of funny. You whole-heartedly believe he is a rock legend who has seen it all. I wouldn't be surprised if there was a little method acting going on considering how big a star he is in real life. BUT can he sing? Yes he can. He is a very good singer, but like Julianne Hough, his voice is a little too clean for my tastes. Stacee Jaxx is supposed to have been around for years. He's a heavy, heavy drinker, but where's the wear and tear on his voice? If you're wondering what I'm talking about listen to Steven Tyler singing "Dream On" and then compare it to "Cryin'" or "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing." There is a noticeable change in his voice, and that roughness, that grit is what Tom Cruise is missing. I think he's better suited for alternative rock instead metal.

I guess the question now is should you see this move? I don't know if it's worth paying $12 - $13 for it. If you can get free passes or discounted tickets, go for it. It's a fun time. You'll laugh a lot, sometimes for the wrong reasons. You'll cheer for the characters and if you're like me, you'll be singing along. However, if you're on a budget, save up for Spider-Man or The Dark Knight, and rent this when the time comes. I don't think it will do well in the box office, but I see this becoming a cult classic.

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