Film Review: Rock Of Ages
No one going to watch Rock of Ages can possibly be expecting a deeply profound look at the music scene of the late 1980’s- and they certainly won’t get it. The film is an impenitently cheesy journey through 80’s rock and pop. One of its main selling points is surely the chance to see various stars trying to screech their way through classic 80s hits, as has been done before (who can forget the strangely endearing experience of seeing Pierce Brosnan murder a selection of Abba hits in 2008’s Mamma Mia?)
The film takes us back to 1987 and tells the story of aspiring vocalist Sherrie (Julianne Hough) who arrives in Hollywood and falls for wannabe singer and busboy Drew (Diego Boneta). She manages to land a job at ‘The Bourbon Room’, a rock club which is in serious need of funds and is run by Dennis Dupree (Alec Baldwin) and his assistant Lonny (Russell Brand). They hope that the club can be saved by an appearance by super-famous rock god Stacee Jax (Tom Cruise).
Not only is the storyline in no way compelling, with various plot ‘twists’ which can either be seen coming a mile away or don’t quite make sense, but the stars’ performances aren’t particularly believable either. Cruise fails to convince as a legendary rock star; although it’s obvious he’s in great shape at the age of 49, he just seems a bit- dare it be said- past it for this kind of role (despite the fact that Cruise’s character does seem to be intentionally self-mocking). Similarly, although Hough and Boneta’s talents at singing are plainly evident, their characters often seem a little one-dimensional; there doesn’t seem to be a lot to draw the audience in and really make them feel like they give a damn whether the couple stay together or not.
Although no one can deny that the soundtrack is full of feel-good 80’s tunes, including Don’t Stop Believing and Pour Some Sugar On Me, they are some of the most overplayed, over-hyped songs of the era and are likely to make most of the audience yearn for other tunes which are slightly less done-to-death. Whilst some renditions are particularly painful to sit through (Baldwin’s croning is particularly grating), Cruise’s singing is nowhere near as dire as expected, and Catherine Zeta Jones belting out Hit Me With Your Best Shot as Patricia Whitmore (the nasty wife of the mayor of LA) is, unsurprisingly, brilliant. Despite this, the running length of the film seems too long- at 123 minutes, it dragged towards the end and even the upbeat tunes didn’t manage to break up the boring, uninspiring storyline and some of the cringe-worthy overdramatized performances.
Although this film is unapologetically camp and cheesy, it’s not in an enjoyable, laugh-out-loud way so much as an ‘I’m wasting 2 hours of my life watching this’ kind of way. The songs are by far the most enjoyable parts of the film, and even they have been so overplayed over the years that they fail to make up for the overall experience of the film, which is likely to leave audiences restless and unsatisfied.