Pull on your leather trousers, backcomb your mullet and get out the eyeliner, because it’s 1987 and Stadium Rock is about to sex you up and then leave you in a bloated drug addled mess.
Rock of Ages is based on the hit musical of the same name. When Sherrie Christian (Julianne Hough) leaves Middle America for the big dreams and bright lights of L.A, she soon finds herself working at the notorious Bourbon Room – a proverbial Mecca for Glam Rockers and wannabe musicians. After a chance encounter with fellow hopeful Drew (Diego Boneta), the two soon embark on a romance amongst the turmoil and heartache of struggling club owners (Alec Baldwin), goody goody women’s groups (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and megawatt Rock gods (Tom Cruise).
Musicals have a tradition of being vapid and shameless versions of storytelling. All big show tunes and flashy dance numbers with hammy acting and paper thin plots, they are often pure escapism; Rock of Ages is no different. Like the cooler cousin to Mumma Mia, but covered in filth and oozing sex, Rock of Ages puts a big emphasis on being fun rather than being rewarding. As with any film in this genre, the accent is on the soundtrack, and Rock of Ages definitely has a fantastic jukebox index. Imagine, if you will, a mash up between the Time Life Classics Collections, a wedding after party and 80’s night at the local nightclub; there is a generous lump of cheese with the air pounding sound.
Shockingly though, instead of just pillaging the rock back catalogue, the filmmakers also try to really ‘honour’ the sexually charged lifestyles of bands such as Guns n’ Roses, Bon Jovi and Poison. Stirred in amongst the shaky lipped warbling and OTT head banging are moments of Rosary bead S&M, simulated onstage ejaculations and Tom Cruise singing into someone’s bum…I will wait a minute while you process that last one…
Speaking of Tom Cruise, let us not forget that this is a film which is seeking more credit than is due for its standout cast. The likes of Paul Giamatti and Alec Baldwin pull their weight. Russell Brand does his best, and is reasonably enjoyable to watch. Catherine Zeta-Jones is surprisingly funny and relative newcomers Hough and Boneta do decent jobs at headlining. Bryan Cranston, however, is wasted. Then there is Cruise, the big name on the backend of this film. Cruise sounds great, and can really scream with the best of them. His physique and look are the perfect embodiment of those he is channelling. However, as talented as Cruise is, he just doesn’t feel like a Rock Legend. Airs of Jim Morrison and Axel Rose float around the Mission: Impossible star, but at no point do they enter and exit his performance. The final product feels like a very gifted actor trying hard play one role which might be best suited for someone else (see Val Kilmer in The Doors).
For a film that carries a 12A rating (PG-13 in U.S) and a chirpy demeanour, there is a real grotty undercurrent that runs throughout Rock of Ages. Those like me who haven’t seen the stage show, may find the frankly unexpected strong sexual suggestions to be somewhat jarring for a ‘family’ film. But it doesn’t stop the music from bursting into your eardrums and stumbling its way through your mind for the days that follow. Its rock and roll baby and we love it!