Friday, June 15, 2012

Review: Schlock of Ages

I hope you flossed today.

Yeah.  That’s what I called it when it first came out on Broadway and I didn’t see it, but now seeing the movie, I’m going to stick by my nickname for Rock of Ages.  It’s cheesy.  But it’s cheezy with a “Z.”

I didn’t think so at the time, but 80s music really holds up even if it’s not by The Clash and they have a great selection of tunes in the show that anyone over 40 will be definitely be humming along with.

Diego Boneta and Julianne Hough play the star-crossed young lovers in L.A. (circa 1987) in this boy gets girl, boy loses girl, you-know-the-rest-of-the-story.  Julianne plays the Christina Aguilera role (from Burlesque) only she’s more appealing and her name is Sherrie.  Oddly, they never perform the Journey song by the same name.  Come to think of it, Julianne was the only good part of Burlesque and I’m pretty sure they loaned her Christina’s “I just got off the bus from Dogpatch” costume for the opening scene.  Diego is fresh-faced and doe-eyed and also well cast as the young wannabe metal head Drew who hasn’t grafted his full lips to a Jack Daniels bottle yet.  

In a club I assume is based on the famed Whiskey-A-Go-Go, The Bourbon Room,  whose name includes a word (bourbon) that reformed substance abuser Russell Brand strangely cannot pronounce ("Bonbon Reeum!"), we are introduced to Brand (really reprising his character Aldous Snow for the THIRD TIME) as club manager Lonny and Alec Baldwin as (Pierce Brosnan in Mamma Mia! Translation: the one guy who couldn’t sing.) the cash strapped club owner (see: Cher in Burlesque…Okay, it really WAS Burlesque.  Except the music didn’t blow big monkey chunks.  In your pants.) Dennis Dupree.  Baldwin and Brand have some really good comic chemistry.  But Baldwin’s was the only long-haired wig that didn’t work.  It made him look more like he was playing a geriatric version of Petruchio in a Shakespeare in the park production of The Taming of the Shrew.  Between the hair and his cheap leopard print shirt, I probably was too distracted to absorb all of his character’s goofiness – and there was a good bit.

I’d probably watch Paul Giamatti read a phone book, but he is getting really expert at playing smarmy characters and he did just that in music agent Paul Gill, representing the famous Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise, in his singing debut) of the band Arsenal.  This is a guy that you assume has had to get rid of some dead groupies’ bodies after a bad batch of eight-balls.  Usually in comedies about rock stars, the agent is always portrayed as being much put-upon due to the behavior of the entitled rock star.  You don't feel sympathy for him in Gill’s case.  He’s pure evil.  He even gave the world boy bands after he declared,” Rock is dead!”

Catherine Zeta-Jones reprises her role as Velma Kelly from Chicago, only this time she’s hiding her evil behind Jesus as a crusading church lady (with a secret) and wife of the mayor who’s trying to put an end to the filth that is Stacee’s music.  You just know this lady has a mother of pearl handled pistol somewhere in her bag of tricks.  CZJ really should stick to comedy.  She totally brought the camp in a big way to the movie and it needed it.  Bryan Cranston was back to looking more like Seinfeld’s Tim Whatley than Breaking Bad’s Walter White as the adulterous, kinky mayor.

Malin Ackerman plays the young Rolling Stone reporter Constance Sack who has an affair with Stacee Jaxx.  This is a role that could have very easily gone to Kate Hudson had the viewing public not been fortunate enough that Kate was likely preggers at the time of casting.  Whew!  We dodged a bullet there!!  Malin and Tom Cruise pull off some of the silliest choreographed love scenes probably since the late 80s era that they are portraying when A Fish Called Wanda was the hot summer movie.

Mary J. Blige also plays Cher's role from Burlesque (world weary nightclub owner), but does so while rocking a kick-ass Donna Summer look.

I would say that Tom Cruise is a revelation as Stacee Jaxx, but he’s actually reprising his Les Grossman role from Tropic Thunder.  The performance is trippy, a bit creepy and the character’s a real mind f*cker.  It’s some of Cruise’s best work and I attribute that to screenwriter Justin Theroux (guy with uni-brow who's banging Jen Aniston), who also penned Thunder.  If Cruise keeps working with Theroux, he might get to manhandle Oscar yet.  Oh, and those vitamins that Xenu prescribed for him must REALLY work.  I’m about the same age and in order to move around with the energy he did, I would need a permanent Gatorade drip.  Or a banana bag.  Speaking of bananas, Jaxx’s personal assistant was a baboon named Hey Man.  And as far as the singing – Cruise was great.  Who would have thought watching him lip synch to Bob Seger in Risky Business 30 years ago, that folks would be downloading Cruise singing for real on iTunes today?  If you are a fan of hair band ballads from the 80s, you will be.

Rock of Ages is totally predictable but still silly fun.  Some of the silliness I’m not sure the filmmakers planned on.  But for me it was worth the price of admission just to see a primate dressed as Colonel Gadhafi. That's right.

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