“Rock of Ages” is a musical devoted to hits of the 1980′s. It’s about a small town girl moving to the big city with big dreams and a small bank account. Can you guess the closing number? The film is written around covers of famous 80′s hits, although those songs rarely teach us anything about the characters. Rather, the music exists for the sake of existing, while the dialog moves us from song to song. Neither mean anything. The film is as hollow and indulgent an entry into the nostalgia market as has ever existed.
I can think of only two reasons to see “Rock of Ages.”
The first is to enjoy music you loved in youth; to perhaps recapture the feelings of a bygone age. Music, in particular, carries strong emotional context. Every moment in the film is either a Billboard Hit or a contrived segue to another Billboard Hit. But be forewarned. The songs in this film are all middling covers and remixes. Some songs are spliced together just to give important actors screen time. Weird mixing ruins the flow of the songs, which in turn breaks the pleasant nostalgia required for any connection between the audience and this film. The soundtrack features twenty songs. Most of the original recordings are available on iTunes for $1 or on Youtube for free. Just listen to them there. Nothing in the film captures their emotion or significance. In fact, the film makes its music boring, inconsequential.
On a related note, the film is edited terribly. The actors are obviously lip-syncing and dancing to a pre-recorded soundtrack. There is no immersion to be found. The film’s weakness is surprising, given director Adam Shankman’s choreography background.
Another reason to see the film would be to satisfy the curiosity of seeing popular performers prance about outside of their comfort zone. While “Rock of Ages” mostly fails, there are a few notable performances. Russell Brand and Alec Baldwin’s characters share an unspoken mutual lust for most of the film, and their musical confession is a highlight. Tom Cruise as Stacey Jaxx is a sight to behold. He nails all his musical numbers. Unfortunately, Jaxx is demoted from “rock god” to boring clod midway through the film, ruining the weird demigod aspects of his character.
Cathrine Zeta Jones, Malin Ackerman, Julianne Hough, and Diego Boneta round out the primary cast. With the exception of Jones, the cast is quite adequate at singing and dancing, but don’t really bring anything special to a set of very bland characters. Jones’ character serves as the antagonist, but her role is rather minor and her conclusion undeserved.
I didn’t watch any of the special features on the disc. The movie wore me out. Most notably, my Blu-Ray included an extended edition. I considered it, but decided I’m not gonna take it.