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USA 2012
Directed by
Adam Shankman
123 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars

Rock Of Ages

Synopsis: It's 1987 and Sherrie (Julianne Hough), a girl from Tulsa dreaming of being a singer arrives in West Hollywood. Within minutes she gets her suitcase stolen but thanks to Drew (Diego Boneta) she lands a job at the Bourbon Room whose owner Dennis (Alec Baldwin is facing bankruptcy and relying on an appearance by Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise) for a one-off benefit show. Meanwhile moral majority crusader, Patricia (Catherine Zeta-Jones) is trying to have the joint closed for inciting lewd behaviour.

Adapted from the hit stage musical of the same name I could see this working live but as a film Rock Of Ages is an ersatz affair. Unlike director Adam Shankman’s Hairspray (2008) in which the songs, book and performances all worked perfectly together, this offering is a cobbling together of more or less distinguished songs of the time in a templated boy-meets-girl, etc, etc narrative, the heavy-handed direction failing to achieve much excitement as the film muddles cock-rock posing (provided by Cruise) with cosy High School Musical-ish tweeness (provided by the two leads).

It’s hard to see where the audience for this film is. Probably people who have seen the musical and want to re-live the experience, perhap fans of Guns N’ Roses, Poison and such like bands hoping to bang their heads vicariously and...well, that’s it about. If you don’t fall into these two categories you can pretty much forget Rock Of Ages as there is nothing in either the songs or the performances that stands alone.

There’s been some praise for Tom Cruise’s turn as the leather-clad rock star and he is good but it goes on far too long (there’s a scene in Richard Linklater's School Of Rock in which Miss Mullins is hit on by a similarly attired dude that achieves as much in sixty seconds). Shankman appears to be striving for a well-deserved parodic vibe but with the exception of a duet between Russell Brand and Alec Baldwin it doesn’t come off, with a number performed by Cruise and a supposed Rolling Stone journalist (Malin Akerman) embarrassingly tacky. Catherine Zeta-Jones performs her part with self-abnegating professionalism and the always reliable Paul Giamatti is delicious as a dirt-bag manager

The choreography is tight, indeed almost too tight, whilst the music numbers are edited MTV style to try to generate an excitement which is often lacking. The second half of the film is actually the better one, with Mary J. Blige providing the only really distinguished vocal performance, and a couple of well-staged numbers but even then Rock Of Ages only intermittently strikes a chord.




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