I want to rock! We’re not going to take it! Girls just want to have fun! That’s the vibe of the ’80s I got growing up on the outskirts of the decade. The dresses were lacy, everyone wore crazy makeup, the amount of hairspray used left a hole in the ozone layer and the music was either synth-heavy or on guitar solo overload. But I remember it being fun, and when the “I Love the ’80s” retro craze began at the beginning of the new millennium, I was so like totally on-board. This shit was FUN!
But no fun was had when I saw Rock of Ages. No fun at all.
It starts off with a sad sap story about a small town girl going anywhere named Sherri Christian. (“Sister Christian” is the first song. It doesn’t improve.) She ends up on the seedy LA strip at an all-time famous bar where a googly-eyed wanna-be musician/waiter hooks her up with a job and hooks up with her. Somewhere in the mix of the two young lovers is a temperamental sex rock god raging havoc because he lost his mind to rock n’ roll. That sentence just made dizzy; I need to sit down.
Anywho, drama ensues between the two, the club has financial woes of its own, there’s crazed censorship moms trying to clean up the strip, and the rock star is losing control of his career. Oh boy, can this fit into a three-hour block? Not really, but director Adam Shankman tries. Somehow,
bringing in the infringing power of pop rap a la New Kids on the Block and Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch was the most compelling piece of conflict in the entire movie.
Not that this monumental tribute to the age of excess is at a loss for talent. Tom Cruise tries his comedic chops once more as Stacee Jaxx, the rock star with a pet baboon and an uncertainty of what he’s doing. The “is he crazy or isn’t he” schtick gets old halfway through the movie, and it’s nowhere near as memorable as his Stan Grossman character in Tropic Thunder. Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand are the club owners awkwardly pitched as a couple, which is hilarious because that means they’re gay!
That’s the punchline. Gay rock’n'roll club owners. I wasn’t laughing.
Catherine Zeta-Jones is the Tipper Gore rip-off Christ crusader bent on cleaning up the strip. She can’t really dance, and I think I actually laughed aloud (finally) when she tried to do a high kick and it came about hip level for her. Paul Giamatti is a sleazy manager out for money, but his evil deeds were hardly evil at all and he’s easily “defeated.” Mary J. Blige is a strip club owner and when she’s not singing, she’s stumbling through dialog harder than Beyonce in Dream Girls.
Singers should sing, actors should act, and 9 times out of 10, the two should never mix.
Which brings me to our to fresh-faced leads, Diego Boneta and Julianne Hough. Diego, poor thing, did not impress me in a role that included singing, dancing, and acting. I’ve pretty much forgotten he was in the movie at all except that I knew Julianne’s Sherri Christian had a love interest. After I loathed her performance in Footloose, she’s now graced the screen a second time and I find that I might actually dislike her more. Her voice, a toxic cocktail of Britney Spears, Jessica Simpson, and a dash of Miley Cyrus, never sounds in tune. Ever. On any song. Hell, her stilted dialog delivery bothered me just as much. She dances better than Diego, but that was her claim to fame back in the day with Dancing with the Stars.
Dearest executives in Hollywood, stop trying to make Julianne Hough happen.
No one can fucking sing in this musical. Mary J. Blige (the only one with enough vocal power to carry a song) isn’t in enough songs to clean that hot mess of a soundtrack. What the hell, was Broadway on strike? WHY YOU NO USE TALENT WHEN TALENT IS NEEDED?
Skip this track, and instead go out with your friends and get smashed at a karaoke bar.