‘Rock of Ages’ Misfires; They Should’ve Asked Chad
Julianne Hough is a beautiful, ambitious young actress who appears to have decided to leave country music behind and pursue a career in Hollywood. I can tell by her performance in the miscalculated Rock of Ages that she will one day get there. This film, however, just isn’t the springboard. But she shouldn’t take the blame. Oh no. Hough is one of many–writers and director included–involved in the Broadway musical adaptation that simply doesn’t seem to understand what is necessary for the film to work. And work it does not.
Hough plays Sherrie Christian–you know, so they can sing Steve Perry’s “Oh Sherrie” and Night Ranger’s “Sister Christian.” Her just-off-the-bus-from-Oklahoma innocence is immediately put to the test at the Los Angeles nightclub where she’s always dreamed of working. It’s called the Bourbon, and it’s to be the site where aging rock star Stacee Jax, played by Tom Cruise, will kick-start a comeback.
Sherrie falls for young wannabe Drew Boley, played by a lifeless actor named Diego Boneta, and gets a job waiting tables.
Meanwhile, L.A.’s philandering mayor, played by Breaking Bad‘s Bryan Cranston is siccing his ultra-conservative wife Patty, played by Catherine Zeta-Jones, on the Bourbon, Stacee Jax, and rock ‘n’ roll music itself. The film is set in 1987. Patty seems to think it’s 1957.
The bar’s manager and his assistant are played respectively by Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand.
This whole thing is a total misfire. The many musical numbers are all 80s rock songs, save one. Julianne Hough has a “big ballad moment” when she gets to sing the 90s hit, “More Than Words” by Extreme. Also, her character sports 70s Farrah Fawcett hair. She was completely confusing.
I gather that this should play like a satire of the entire 80s hair band culture, but nobody, save Cruise, seems to understand that. They’re all just lining up to sing karaoke.
Zeta-Jones is awful, essentially playing Dana Carvey’s Church Lady character from Saturday Night Live. Uh, Carvey was way funnier. Well, Carvey was funny, period. Beautiful Catherine was NOT.
And I’m not sure WHAT was going on between Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand. All I do know is that if their musical numbers–Joan Jett’s “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” and REO Speedwagon’s syrupy “Can’t Fight This Feeling”–were supposed to be funny, they got it all wrong. I found the two of them to be completely disturbing whenever they were on screen.
Cruise gets this. He thoroughly nails the parody of an eccentric, egotistical rock ‘n’ roll burnout–although I could have done without the monkey.
Mary J. Blige–as a new-found mentor for Sherrie–is also a highlight. Why? Because she gets to sing. And her incomparable pipes are most welcome.
And then there’s Julianne–sweet little Julianne–who really does try. But directors, writers– everyone involved–just didn’t have the proper grasp on this material. What they should’ve done was ask Chad.
Yep, it occurs to me that if you want to see 80s music incorporated cleverly into a story, somehow try to find a video recording of Chad’s “80s Pop Rock Musical.”
Back in 2003, Chad wrote and directed a musical for Theatre Workshop of Owensboro featuring nothing but the lyrics of hits from the 1980s. Whether it was a musical number or dialogue, it was all 80s lyrics.
I can only imagine how exhausting such an endeavor was to complete, but it was a blast. And it was brilliant! And IT was what I wanted to see instead of what I did see.
Baldwin and Brand?!? What WAS that?!?
Rock of Ages is rated PG-13.