‘Rock of Ages’ sinks on weak storyline

Tom Cruise plays a long-haired, tat­tooed rock­er in ‘Rock of Ages.’


Just when I thought 1980s nos­tal­gia was go­ing out of style, out comes Rock of Ages, the big screen ad­apt­a­tion of the hit Broad­way mu­sic­al.

It’s the clich&ea­cute;d story of a small-town girl (liv­ing in a lonely world) who takes the mid­night bus from Ok­lahoma to Hol­ly­wood in 1987. She meets the city boy (born and raised in south De­troit) and to­geth­er they pur­sue their dreams of hit­ting it big.

Sher­rie (Ju­li­anne Hough) and Drew (Diego Boneta) are the leads, but it’s the sup­port­ing char­ac­ters that raise the movie to something slightly above bar­gain-bin level.

Tom Cruise plays against type as the long-haired, tat­tooed rock­er Sta­cee Jaxx. Oth­er sup­port­ing cast mem­bers in­clude Rus­sell Brand, Paul Gia­matti, Cath­er­ine Zeta-Jones, Ma­l­in Aker­man, Alec Bald­win and R&B sing­er Mary J. Blige.

With dif­fer­ent leads, I might have en­joyed this movie a lot more.

Rock of Ages marks the second movie in a row (Footloose) that Hough has failed to wow me. I found her voice a bit thin for most of the rock songs and her act­ing seemed more fit­ting for a TV movie. Boneta, in his first big-screen role, failed to charm me as well al­though it was only his act­ing that was the prob­lem, not his singing.

And to­geth­er, their chem­istry was ser­i­ously lack­ing heat. They work to­geth­er at The Bour­bon Room bar on the Sun­set Strip and a have a pseudo-ro­mance go­ing on, but I didn’t par­tic­u­larly care if they ended up to­geth­er or not.

That’s not to say that the movie is a total waste of time. Yes, this is a mu­sic­al and char­ac­ters do sud­denly break in­to song. Al­though I prefer mu­sic­als where the songs were writ­ten for the movie in­stead of ones like Rock of Ages, where the script was writ­ten around the songs. Still, I quite en­joyed most of the mu­sic as dir­ect­or Adam Shank­man (Hair­spray) to­geth­er with cho­reo­graph­er Mia Mi­chaels (So You Think You Can Dance) put to­geth­er some nice song and dance scenes.

With a mon­key named “Hey Man” and any num­ber of groupies at his beck and call, Cruise sur­pris­ingly came across as an au­then­t­ic rock­er. Oh, and his auto-tuned singing voice is pretty good as well.

I would have liked to see more from Zeta-Jones, who played Pa­tri­cia Whit­more, the wife of Los Angeles may­or Mike Whit­more (Bry­an Cran­ston). Pa­tri­cia is vehe­mently op­posed to the sin­ful rock mu­sic of the day. Zeta-Jones has some fun per­form­ances, in­clud­ing “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” and a mash-up of “We’re Not Gonna Take It” with Rus­sell Brand singing “We Built this City.” As vil­lains go, she’s rather weakly writ­ten. Blige also was un­der­used with a small role as the own­er of a gen­tle­man’s club. I really en­joyed Blige’s rendi­tion of “Any Way You Want It.”

Bald­win, as the own­er of The Bour­bon Room, and Brand, his em­ploy­ee, seem to be hav­ing a lot of fun with their roles, and, in par­tic­u­lar, one funny scene between them is one of the movie’s most mem­or­able mo­ments.

The No. 1 thing Rock of Ages has go­ing for it is the ex­plo­sion of ’80s rock mu­sic from bands such as Def Lep­pard, For­eign­er, Jour­ney, Pois­on, REO Speed­wag­on, Bon Jovi and Twis­ted Sis­ter. Fans of mu­sic from this era will find that Rock of Ages is a rock­ing good time — if they ig­nore the storyline.

Movie Grade: B-

You can reach at shorbrook@bsmphilly.com.

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