By David Poland firstname.lastname@example.org
Review: Rock of Ages
Sometimes you eat the movie… sometimes the movie eats you.
Adam Shankman, whose work I quite like, gets eaten alive by Rock of Ages. And not to put too fine a point on it, trying to analyze the film feels a bit like trying to dissect diarrhea. I felt physically abused by the time the movie ended, like I had suffered a bad case of Jukebox Musical’s Revenge. And I am not exaggerating.
The movie stars in the film are generally unscathed. Tom Cruise does fine. So does Russell Brand. The great Alec Baldwin is, sadly, not funny in this film… probably because (read: All Caps) the script sucked. It could not suck any worse if thirteen, not three, people had rewritten it to within an inch of coherence. The three credited screenwriters of this film should seriously consider never trying to write a movie again. One guy wrote the book for the play… so he was probably pushed aside and gets a bit of a pass. Allen Loeb wrote a couple of good scripts, but is now on a long streak of bad. And the next Justin Theroux script that is any good will be his first.
The saddest part of this enterprise is that it is utterly soulless. It has no joy. It has no real passion. It has no theme, aside from “DUDE!”
Adam Shankman, like his movies or not (and I tend to), gets joy. His movies have energy. Not this time.
Not as lucky as their fellow thespians, Catherine Zeta Jones is embarrassed here, Paul Giamatti is a cartoon of a cartoon, Mary J Blige is the token enthnic (the only only person of color is a busboy at the club who is the butt of jokes) and shows up just to sing beautifully when no one else seems to be able to do so, and Bryan Cranston is completely wasted. Malin Akerman is game and seems to give it her best, but in the end, is just another woman who loses her restraint when confronted by the possibility of Stacee Jax’s cock and proceeds to throw herself on him.
The leads, Diego Boneta and Julianne Hough, can sing a little. But while both are conventional beauties, neither can hold the screen for a second. It’s brutal.
Early on, I thought that Glee had killed Rock of Ages, whose mash up and intercut songs are not as good as Glee’s and which Glee has made a cliche.
But it was much, much worse than that. The worst 15 minutes of the worst episode of Glee (Whitney Houston tribute?) was still better than this.
Nothing makes sense. The ladies in the church singing “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” simply made no sense… as THEY were planning to go on the attack.
This is a movie where the lead female’s character name, Shari, is said no less than 50 times… and they never sing a song with her name in it.
This is a movie where they have a monkey dressed in human clothes and the audience does not laugh.
This is a movie where plot lines, like contracts, taxes, mayoral elections in Los Angeles, burgeoning homosexuality, stripping, infidelity, being robbed, etc are all passing plot points that no one seems to care about for much longer than the time to tell another unfunny joke.
It’s not even good camp. Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is good camp. As Ted will soon remind, Flash Gordon was great camp. Broadway’s Xanadu was a brilliant camp spin on a movie as bad as this one. But this film doesn’t even take itself seriously enough to be funny the wrong way.
Really, it could not be as bad as it made me feel about it. If it was, I would have bled out on the drive home. And my expectations were so in check going in. It is unfair to compare it to Mamma Mia!, as Mamma Mia! had the courage of its conceit. This film does not. You really have to go back 30 years to find a movie musical this bad. And at least Grease 2 offered a young Michelle Pfeiffer. And Ms Hough, you may have many talents, but you are no young Michelle Pfeiffer.
Shellshockingly bad. Worst wide-release film of the summer so far, going away. Project X was more coherent. Such a total, horrifying waste.
The ONLY redeeming things in the film are, 1) the production design, which does a really interesting job smushing LA landmarks into a small area, and 2) the “We Built This City/We’re Not Going To Take It” face off, which showed, for a minute or so, what this film could have been.
Rock of Ages feels like a film from a another medium where development was so random, just changing any old thing in the script on whims, that you end up with a style exercise with no style the audience can hang onto for the over two hours of boringly recreated rock anthems.
And with that, I will put this film behind me and look forward to better films to come. I am just stunned that so much talent came to so little. Scene after scene, I just couldn’t believe what I was watching.