Sweat flies, crowds bounce, and teens fall in love in Adam Shankman’s film adaptation of the hit Broadway musical Rock of Ages (2012). The man behind 2007’s Hairspray returns to familiar territory for this 1980s-set jukebox musical featuring classic tracks from Starship, Twisted Sister, Bon Jovi and Pat Benatar amongst others. Regrettably, it’s hard to watch the film without being reminded of the hugely popular TV show Glee, not helped by Journey’s Don’t Stop Believin’ making a significant appearance.
The plot sees a small town girl, Sherrie (Julianne Houghton), arrive in big bad L.A. with dreams of becoming a singer. She is immediately robbed on the street and catches the eye of barman-come-aspiring rock star, Drew (Diego Boneta). Soon, the two are working together in the nightclub The Bourbon Room which is owned and run by Dennis (Alec Baldwin) and Lonny (Russell Brand) and is about to host the final concert from rock gods ‘Arsenal’, fronted by the strung-out Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise). All of this is whilst Patricia Whitmore (Catherine Zeta-Jones), a religious conservative and wife to the mayor, protests against the club and rock music.
Given the fresh-faced young love-birds at the films centre, it is fairly obvious where Rock of Ages is headed from the very beginning but with Cruise, Baldwin, Zeta-Jones, Paul Giamatti (as Arsenal’s manager) and Bryan Cranston (as the mayor) in supporting roles, you hope that the film can rise above the tedium of the central relationship. The plot does have an interestingly overt sexuality about it – especially where Cruise’s Jaxx is concerned – but it sadly never quite delivers some of the more risqué and darker aspects of the original production are diluted.
Having said that, the supporting cast are mostly okay with Zeta-Jones and especially Cruise standing out as the ferociously conservative campaigner and the lost and liquor-sodden rocker. Unfortunately they aren’t able to make up for the insipid leads who inspire little interest in the film’s central plot and don’t quite have the presence or voices to wow during the songs. There’s also Brand’s horrendous Brummie accent to consider.
All in all, Rock of Ages isn’t quite as terrible as it could have been. There are a couple of laugh out loud moments and enough chuckles to keep it from slipping into boredom, but the leads leave the audience largely un-engaged and on the whole you are left wishing that the rock, which is inherent to the plot and feel, was a little less poptastic.