Reviewed by Kim Jackimowicz
Not exactly a fan of musicals, I was lured by Rock of Ages’ star-studded cast and promises of melodies from my childhood. Although the songs weren’t all personally familiar, they did induce a few feel-good moments that have probably favorably biased my opinion of the movie.
Sherrie (Julianne Hough) is a small-town girl from Oklahoma attempting to fulfill her dream of becoming a singer. She travels to LA’s sunset strip and meets Drew (Diego Boneta) who is also an aspiring rock singer, and they instantly fall in love. Not so shockingly, the plot follows these two characters as they sing their way into love, followed by heartbreak, and then inevitably back into each other’s arms. Unfortunately, Hough and Boneta’s love story is the strongest plot but ends up being the weakest link.
The plot is cheesy and the acting is over-the-top theatrical at times, but what else would I expect from a musical? In my opinion, its redeeming quality was the blatantly raunchy yet unexpectedly humorous antics and comedic focus. Playing himself, Russell Brand whom I typically don’t care for, was surprisingly funny throughout the movie. I think I most enjoyed the fact that the humor was actually comical and not the most recent type of “so stupid it’s funny” that seems to be taking over. The credit is likely due to the writer’s, but nonetheless is well executed on Brand’s behalf.
Most enjoyable are the scenes starring Tom Cruise. Cruise, as a bad boy rockstar, bangs out convincing renditions of “Wanted Dead or Alive” and “Pour Some Sugar on Me.” His performance as rockstar Stacee Jaxx is the show-stealer; he is weirdly wild and entrancing. Honestly, I spent most of my time starring at his impossibly fit-at-50 body wondering if he was the perfect fit for the role, but I think he was, and he did it well.
I was surprised that most all singing pieces were tolerable or amusing; unfortunately, that does not include those by aspiring singer Julianne Hough who began her career as a dancer. Hough is not a great singer, nor does she have the presence for a lead role. Inversely, Mary J. Blige, who plays a much smaller role as a strip club owner that helps Hough when she is down on her luck, gives an awesome vocal performance. Her talent is so remarkably beyond that of the other actors that casting her was a poor decision that only emphasized the lack of vocal talent throughout.
Bottom line: If you don’t expect a fabulous musical, but if you like 80’s music and some raunchy humor (or simply Tom Cruise), you’ll likely be amused.