“And he’ll do it for free! Besides, nobody cares about the opening act anyway.”
The seventies were undoubtedly the quintessential decade for music, but it can’t be denied that the eighties possessed a certain gusto and bad boy attitude that made for, if nothing else, some fun rock songs. Rock of Ages succeeds in showing a cliche, glamorized version of the 1980s; one in which music hopefuls journey from rural towns to find a place on the Sunset Strip, and the rock ‘n’ roll, hair metal culture is alive and screaming. But the 80’s world shown in this Russell Brand-Julian Hough flick is overblown and cartoony and a little too cheesy to be enjoyable.
Rock of Ages has a killer opening scene that sets the stage for a great film, but after that it’s just a wait for it to actually start until it’s almost over and there seems to have been no point to the last two hours. The concept is inspired but never actually delivers. The soundtrack alone is the sole factor that keeps audiences from walking out – from Skid Row, Bon Jovi and Journey to Twisted Sister and Poison, all the hits are there. But, alas, the musical numbers themselves do nothing to advance the story and the songs seem to be picked for their recognizability rather than to reflect the character’s emotions and situations.
Catherine Zeta-Jones dancing awkwardly to “Hit Me With Your Best Shot”, backed by an army of rock ’n’ roll hating, pastel-suit clad mothers, is an uncomfortable scene to watch and a bit cringe worthy. The same awkwardness is repeated in the other-universe storyline when Diego Boneta’s character Drew writes Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” as his own song. It just does not come across well to pretend such a legendary song was written by a fictional character.
Though on occasion sweet, the storyline is predictable and has a gaping absence of substance and heart. The fake rock star plot, which pops up in many other stories, is surprisingly well executed and Tom Cruise plays the typical egotistical caricature of a musician well. Julianne Hough in the leading role of Sherrie Christian alongside Diego Boneta as her love interest were unimpressive and Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand were there usual selves. A nice touch in Rock of Ages is the notable cameo of Skid Row frontman Sebastian Bach. It’s fleeting and easy to miss but if you keep your eyes peeled, he’s there cheering in the crowd.
The production design produces a dreamlike and visually pleasing eighties version of Los Angeles, complete with the iconic Tower Records and all the nightclubs. But in the costume department, Rock of Ages is lacking. Many of the sloppily put together outfits appear to belong more to the 2000s then 1987.
It is not well written and it would never be the talk of award seasons nor considered a classic but Rock of Ages is a harmless and a somewhat enjoyable homage to 80’s hair bands. But at the end of the day it would be much more enjoyable to watch the actual Journey sing “Don’t Stop Believin’”.