Review: Rock of Ages

— by ADAM DALE —

“Rock of Ages” is a hit, award-nominated Broadway Jukebox Musical that has ran on and off since its debut in 2006. In the film version, director Adam Shankman (“Hairspray,” “A Walk to Remember”) has used his background in dance and music to bring the light-hearted comedic stage show to the big screen with the help of classic ‘80s metal and an all-star celebrity cast.

In 1987, Sherrie Christian (Julianne Hough) — a small-town girl from Oklahoma — travels to Los Angeles in hopes of making her singing and acting dreams come true. Upon arrival, she is mugged and helped out by Drew Boley (Diego Boneta), who works as a busboy at the infamous rock club The Bourbon Room. Drew persuades the club’s owner, Dennis Dupree (Alec Baldwin), to hire her as a waitress for the club.

Dennis’ right-hand man, Lonny (Russell Brand), is by his side helping him try to revive the dying club. Their one last shot at keeping The Bourbon Room alive is to hold a farewell concert for the rock band Arsenal, as it is their last show before lead singer Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise) goes solo in his career. Things would be easier if it weren’t for Stacee’s sleazy manager Paul Gill (Paul Giamatti) and also an uprising from Mayor Mike Whitmore (Bryan Cranston) and his wife Patricia (Catherine Zeta-Jones), who are forcing their agenda of cleaning up the Los Angeles strip and ridding the town of the evil music played at The Bourbon Room.

The night of the big concert, Drew gets his big break when the opening act for Arsenal has to cancel. While Sherrie is excited, there is some trepidation on her part as she is concerned about what the spotlight can do to a man. As mistakes are made and misunderstandings occur, the young couple split and Drew gets signed by Stacee Jaxx’s manager, and Sherrie is left jobless and winds up heartbroken at the doorsteps of a strip club owned and operated by Justice Charlier (Mary J. Blige) and takes a job there. As each character’s life seems to go in opposite directions, we get revelations of characters and what each truly wants from life, but will all of this lead back to love conquering all and the chance to Rock-On once again?

“Rock of Ages” is a unique musical. It appeals to a clear demographic and although the very talented and diverse cast is sure to lead others to the theater, it is mostly designed to please those with a taste for music from the ‘80s. Personally, I wouldn’t consider myself to fall into that category, but I do like musicals and truly enjoy hearing great music from any genre as long as it is sung by someone with a great voice. This film has all of that and more, with a mixture of emotions and an overall fun atmosphere that makes you want to dance or sing-along to iconic songs by groups like; Styx, Journey, Bon Jovi, Twisted Sister, Poison and many more. The music is the highlight of the film, along with the aesthetics and array of beautifully choreographed dance numbers, accompanied by some great performance by Tom Cruise, Diego Boneta, Mary J. Blige, Catherine Zeta-Jones and others.

While it has a surprisingly light-hearted tone, “Rock of Ages” has given Tom Cruise the chance to play the type of wildly outrageous role that he does all too well. The constant state of intoxication — mixed with women of a very open mindset – creates humor in the character of Stacee Jaxx. He is funny, while being raunchy and even a little sad. You can see all of these emotions shine through the performance while Tom Cruise belts out musical numbers like “Wanted Dead or Alive” and “Pour Some Sugar on Me” to an ecstatic crowd.

Diego Boneta is a great discovery and I was amazed at his voice and not at all surprised that he has been singing publicly since he was just 13 years old. I thought he had good chemistry with Julianne Hough’s Sherrie, but seeing as this is the true definition of an ensemble cast, there doesn’t seem to be a central star – unless you count the music.

Also worth noting: Mary J. Blige really impressed me. Despite a small amount of screen time, she still was one of my favorite characters. We already know that she can sing, but the sassiness and strength she brought to her character, Justice, was great.

There were many storylines going on, so it is hard to highlight them all, but I believe the movie provides a fun, entertaining time while also tapping into the deep nostalgia that most people have for that certain decade of their youth. Although I grew up in the ‘80s, I was too young to be into the music. However, I still knew a majority of the songs going in and had no trouble singing along with the music.

While there are a few problems with the film, they were minor. The mixture of music, visuals, great costumes and wild hair is sure to keep all who see “Rock of Ages” entertained.

“Rock of Ages” is rated PG-13 for sexual content, suggestive dancing, drinking and mild language. Click HERE to see the film’s trailer.

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