Were Ken and Barbie rockers?
Rock of Ages seems to think so. Its version doesn't have a speck of dirt or an iota of grit. It makes the dancing gangs in West Side Story (1961) authentic in comparison.
I knew we were in trouble when in the opening scene a busload of homogenized, nice people leaving Oklahoma breaks antiseptically into song, led by bright-eyed ingenue Sherrie (Julianne Hough).
That's the essence of rock and roll. Sure.
Then Sherrie Christian (an allusion to Night Ranger's "Sister Christian") walks the streets of LA singing with bland optimism. Yuck.
But a Christian can't fail. Sherrie goes into a club and meets her match (eHarmony.com anybody?) He's insipid, dewy-eyed Drew (Diego Boneta). Can it get any more softer and vapid?
Where's Richard Beymer when we need him?
Goddam it - this is supposed to be about rock and roll. 1987 not 1947.
Drew tells Sherrie, "I think I'll only be good on a jukebox." A jukebox isn't going to help. You're a sap, and you'll be a sap no matter what the venue.
Drew sings a song he wrote. Sherrie says, "It's so beautiful. I can't believe you wrote that. It's amazing." Didn't she mean, you know, awesome?
Sherrie and Drew deserve each other. They fall in love; however, they break up, because of a misunderstanding. But we know how it's going to turn out - they'll get married, and breed a lot of kids, which they'll home school.
It's all going to turn out vacuous at the end.
The subtitle of Rock of Ages should be, "We Built This Sinkhole on Rock and Roll."
But despite the relentless vapidity of Rock of Ages, there is one reason to see this movie. Is a single performance enough to recommend a movie? If so, go.
I can't remember another mediocre movie being redeemed by one actor, as much as Rock of Ages is saved by Tom Cruise. He gives a bravura performance. His character Stacee Jaxx blows the wimps and wannabes around him off the screen.
I assume the target audience for Rock of Ages is the one that salivates and identifies with tv talent shows. Cruise transcends them.
Cruise struts, leans, tilts and carouses. His layered performance is the one credible paean to rock and roll in the movie. He throbs with energy and glints of perception.
Cruise is an iconic presence.
Cruise is pretty great in a pretty awful film. He's the talented survivor in a botched talent search. Cruise absolutely deserves a Best Supporting Actor nomination.
Alec Baldwin, Russell Brand, Paul Giamatti, Mary J. Blige, et al. are accomplished actors who are given witless dialogue. The mundane dialogue may fit the young "stars" on Rock of Ages; it isn't worthy of the actors.
Director Adam Shankman treats rock and roll as though he is more alien than Foreigner. The three writers are more deaf than Def.
Rock of Ages rolls away.
Tom Cruise rocks.
For a change of pace, you might want to listen to interviews that I conducted in the 70s and 80s, some of which were published in my book Voices from the Set: The Film Heritage Interviews (2000).
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