Film Review: Rock of Ages

Make no mistake, Rock of Ages is cheesy. It’s cheesier than a staff fondue party at the Bega factory – but a musical built around ‘80s glam metal was never going to be anything else. Fortunately, Adam Shankman’s adaptation of the Broadway musical is kitschy good, not kitschy bad (nor kitschy so-bad-it’s-good á la Eurovision). It’s silly, but at least it knows it.

The year is 1987 and the setting Los Angeles’ famous Sunset Strip. The story isn’t exactly original: hopeful youngsters end up in Hollywood, work in a bar and fall in love while attempting to make it in the music biz. The characters are as clichéd as the plot – the narcissistic rock god, snarky journalist, slimy manager, financially stressed bar owner, self-appointed moral guardian and so forth. It’s not ground breaking, but it is fun and it avoids falling into the trap of taking itself seriously.

It usually doesn’t bode well when a film’s weakest points are its leads. Julianne Hough and Diego Boneta, as the young lovers dreaming of fame and fortune, are utterly devoid of chemistry or screen presence. Their characters’ insipid earnestness and lack of basic communication makes them two of the most annoying romantic protagonists since Romeo and Juliet. Fortunately, the strength of the supporting cast compensates of the banality of the leads.

Tom Cruise as the fading rock star steals every scene he’s in. Oozing charisma and showing off a surprisingly good singing voice, Cruise is clearly having a ball as he struts around in leather pants and black nailpolish. Alec Baldwin and Catherine Zeta Jones are also standouts, while Russell Brand bounces around pretty much being Russell Brand.

Musicals tend to be the sort of thing you either like – or you really don’t. If you’re the kind of person who has trouble suspending disbelief when characters suddenly burst into song, Rock of Ages isn’t for you. However, you remember the ‘80s and the music of Guns ‘n’ Roses, Bon Jovi, Def Leppard and Poison was the soundtrack to your life, Rock of Ages is likely to be one hell of a nostalgia trip. This reviewer is too young to recall the era of wine coolers, synths and poodle perms, but found herself kind of wishing she did. Almost.

3/5 Stars

Rock of Ages (M)
Duration: 124 minutes.
Released: 14 June 2012.

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