First of all, before I get started, let me start off by saying that I am not a fan of musicals. I never have been. The idea of spontaneously breaking into song during a film is so annoying to me, and even as a kid, I remember watching Disney cartoons and being more interested in the moments where the characters WEREN’T singing. I can literally count the number of musicals that I actually enjoy on one hand. With that being said, though, I gladly walked into Adam Shankman’s Rock Of Ages, the new film based on the hit Broadway musical, with high hopes. I don’t know, something about a musical set in 1987 Los Angeles with Tom Cruise in spandex singing hair metal just sounds too good not to pass up. So did it live up to my own personal hype?
You bet your ass it did! I was hoping it would be kind of fun and just stupid enough to enjoy myself, but it actually far exceeded those expectations. I genuinely enjoyed it and had a freaking blast watching this thing. I think the best favor that the film does for itself is that it never takes itself serious. It knows how ridiculous it is, and just says “Screw it. Let’s go for broke”. And that helped a lot in the long run. I never had a chance to think “why am I watching this?”, because Rock Of Ages was constantly one step ahead of me, throwing me little gems of ridiculousness. Such as Paul Giamatti with a skullet ponytail and thick mustache, or one of the central characters transitioning from hair metal into 80’s boy band, or best yet Alec Baldwin with a long wig, singing duets with Russell Brand. Honestly, though, if you weren’t sold at Paul Giamatti with a skullet, than you’re on your own.
The basic plot line of Rock Of Ages revolves around Sherrie (Julianne Hough), a girl from Oklahoma who travels to Los Angeles to become a singer, who meets Drew (Diego Boneta), a roadie at a famous club called “The Bourbon Room”, which is ran by Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand’s characters, which is hosting the final show ever from famed 80s Icons Arsenal, who are splitting because their lead singer Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise) has decided to go solo. Paul Giamatti plays his manager, by the way. All the while, this show is being protested by the Mayor (Bryan Cranston)’s ultra conservative wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones) because she’s pissed about a one night stand that she had with Jaxx in college. Whew. Good lord that was a mouth full.
But let’s talk about Tom Cruise. You know, despite however insane his real life is, you have got to admit that the dude can act. In fact, one of my top 3 performances on film ever, was his portrayal of Frank T.J. Mackey in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia. That character starts out as soooo ridiculously over the top, but through the course of the film, you just see the crumbling of this person’s identity. It’s gut wrenching. Tom Cruise’s performance was so over the top in Rock Of Ages that there were moments when it slightly reminded me of Cruise performing Mackey’s speed dating seminar in Magnolia. Mostly just in how ridiculous the character was. Stacee Jaxx is THE washed up, egomaniacal rock star. He’s always late, and says the most unintelligible stuff ever, but when he says it, you love it. Because it’s awesome. He does not wear a shirt through the entire film, and also has a pet monkey named “Hey Man” who brings him whisky. Tom Cruise seriously knocks this performance out of the freaking park.
In fact, one of my complaints was that there just simply wasn’t enough Stacee Jaxx in Rock Of Ages. He really only has maybe twenty or thirty full minutes of screen time, I’d say. But at least those twenty minutes are glorious. Other minor complaints with the film was that the run time felt a little long. They could have probably trimmed at least 15 minutes off of it. And as much as I love Bryan Cranston, his character was unneeded entirely. They also could have trimmed quit a bit of Mary J Blige’s character, who operates a strip club. She’s there for a minor plot line, but then it just felt like she stuck around simply because she’s Mary J Blige.
But other than that, I surprisingly didn’t find much to not like about Rock Of Ages. It was wonderfully stupid, and unexpectedly fun. If you go into this film expecting anything other than a massively ridiculous musical about hair metal, then your’e just setting yourself up for failure. Go see it, and openly embrace the idea of people like Tom Cruise, Alec Baldwin, and Paul Giamatti belting out hair metal tracks, and just have fun.
I give Rock Of Ages 4 Stacee Jaxx’s out 5:
By Richard Pepper