Last year, we interviewed Matt Weaver, producer of Rock of Ages, about the big screen adaptation of his Broadway smash. Weaver’s excitement at working with stars like Tom Cruise, Alec Baldwin, Russell Brand, Malin Akerman and Mary J. Blige got us pumped for the film. While some of the songs are missing and some of the characters got the chop in the adaptation, the film captures the fun of this ‘80s hair band extravaganza.
First, we meet Sherrie (Julianne Hough), a small town girl who’s on her way to the 1987 Sunset Strip in hopes of becoming a singer. Upon her arrival in L.A. she meets Drew (Diego Boneta), an aspiring rocker who happens to work in metal mecca the Bourbon Room. The two immediately fall in love and support each other in their dreams. But things take a turn when rock superstar Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise channeling Axl Rose) comes to the club to kick off his solo career. Meanwhile, club owner
Dennis (Alec Baldwin) and his faithful companion Lonny (Russell Brand) are facing the wrath of the Christian Right in the form of the mayor (Bryan Cranston) and his overzealous wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones), who are leading the charge to have the Bourbon Room shut down.
Musicals can be a bit weird because it feels so unnatural for people to suddenly burst into song, but Rock of Ages embraces the corniness of the genre and runs with it. The opening scene in which Sherrie gets on a bus of total squares who suddenly join her in singing “Sister Christian” prepares you for what’s to come. Watching Baldwin and Brand perform their “man-love” number, as Weaver called it in our interview, brings some laughs and a comedically choreographed love scene between Cruise and Akerman set to the tune of “I Want to Know What Love Is” takes the non-reality of the genre and runs with it.
Cruise steals the show, as pretty much everyone was certain he would since casting was announced. He seems to bring a method acting perspective to this ridiculous character and he creates a great burnt out rock star. He also shows us that he can carry a tune and his performance of “Wanted Dead or Alive” is quite impressive.
The only place where the film stumbles is in the love story. It’s hard for relative unknowns Boneta and Hough to compete for attention in a film that boasts such an all-star cast and their romance can cross the line between good cheesy and bad cheesy. Hough’s voice and overdone performances can feel a bit Glee-ish and the doe eyed Boneta feels a little too sweet to be a rocker.
Still, Rock of Ages is a fun flick with memorable music that will be stuck in your head for weeks. Even if you’re not a fan of ‘80s hair bands, it’s worth checking this one out for Cruise’s performance alone.