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Film Review: ROCK OF AGES, from Built For Speed

Outrageous big hair, spandex and leopard skin pants invade the screen in Rock of Ages, the cinema adaptation of the hit stage musical. Like the stage show, the film tries to capture the energy of the late the 80’s pop metal scene with a story of starry-eyed rockers on LA’s Sunset Strip.

Rock musicals are always a dubious prospect.  Rock is about rebelliousness, chaos and street cred, three traits not usually associated with the prancing, chorus line world of the musical. Needless to say some classic hard rock tracks are purged of any coolness or credibility in this film but a few survive relatively unscathed.

There is a plot of sorts but it’s just an excuse for the cast to perform a procession of classic rock numbers from the likes of Poison, Journey, Bon Jovi and REO Speedwagon.  Julianne Hough plays the stereotypical small town girl looking to make it as a singer in LA.  At the infamous Bourbon Club, a metal venue probably based on the Whiskey A Go Go, she runs into another aspiring young singer Drew (Diego Boneta).  Just as their careers and romance blossom they become entangled with strutting, blow-waved rock god and human car crash Stacee Jaxx (Tom cruise).

Hough, who looks like a younger Asher Keddie and warbles in a chip monk voice, is an amiable if unremarkable heroin.  Boneta is even less charismatic as Drew although he has some genuinely funny scenes when he’s duped into forming a boy band by oily manager Paul Giamatti.  Cruise, doesn’t entirely shed his usual creepy Donny Osmond like persona but still delivers an amusingly ridiculous turn as the bare chested Jaxx, a weird hybrid of Axl Rose and Glen Danzig.  The always welcome Alec Baldwin is also enjoyably silly as Bourbon impresario Dennis Dupree.  As Dupree’s offsider Lonny, Russell Brand just plays Russell Brand.

The biggest question on the audiences’ lips is “can the actors, particularly Cruise, sing or will it be another Pierce Brosnan Mama Mia style disaster?” Fortunately, the actors actually sing pretty well with Cruise delivering a perfectly acceptable Jovi-like wail while all the others, including rock journo Marlin Akerman, belt out their numbers with verve. Also, with genuine singers like Mary J. Blige on hand, the performances are almost good enough to excuse the hideously cheesy arrangements. Inexcusable though are some of the accompanying dance numbers particularly the outrageous knees-up from Catherine Zeta Jones and her power suited PMRC-like Mothers group.

Rock of Ages is pretty silly and did elicit some ironic laughs from the audience but with Hairspray choreographer Adam Shankman at the helm it’s deliberately camp enough to sell the idea of movie characters bursting into song in 2012.


Director: Adam Shankman

Released: 14thJune 2012

Running time: 123 mins

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