Small-town girl? Check.
City boy? Check.
Sick of hearing Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’”? Uh, big, fat check!
Rock of Ages will satisfy those looking for nothin’ but a good time, mainly because it offers nothing more. It’s an enjoyably cheesy bit of nostalgia meant for jukebox heroes who wanna rock in Paradise City, or those intrigued by the idea of Tom Cruise and mascara.
Sherrie (Julianne Hough) rides the midnight train (okay, it’s a bus) to L.A. and brings her rock ’n’ roll dreams and vinyl records with her. She and Drew (Diego Boneta), a barback at the fabled Bourbon Room, meet cute when those albums are stolen as soon as she exits the bus and before long they can’t fight this feeling. The Aqua Net Prince Charming, who of course is an aspiring rocker, convinces his boss, Dennis (Alec Baldwin), to give her a job in anticipation of the arrival of Stacee Jaxx (Cruise) and his band, Arsenal, who are about to play a triumphant final show at the Bourbon Room, the place where it all started for the aging rock god. And why not? Their world of excess is going down the tubes soon anyway, with the mayor’s wife, Patricia (Catherine Zeta Jones), gunning to shut down the decadent L.A. Strip, her hatred hard-on for Jaxx especially.
It’s a cautionary tale about the price of fame, its mutual exclusion of loving relationships and the importance of staying true to the people who got you there. As such, combined with an overly simplistic narrative, Rock of Ages should have been marketed to high school students, not high school teachers. Honestly, the soundtrack is a roadmap for the plot points, and maybe that’s the nature of the beast with this kind of production. Either way, the song selection does a good job of explaining my lack of familiarity with the original Broadway source material.
So the big question, of course, is Cruise: how will he fare singing the cheesy ballads that inspired a generation of men to look like women? Not bad, actually; not great, mind you, but not bad. Acting-wise, he’s a natural fit for the arrogant, over-sexed dou… Let’s just say, before the Church of Scientology puts a hit out on me, he’s well cast. Vocally, he destroys Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead or Alive,” he’s at his best doing White Snake’s “Here I Go Again,” and apparently impressed Def Leppard with his work on “Pour Some Sugar On Me.”
Other memorable moments include Zeta-Jones doing her best Tipper Gore, ironically to Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It.” Russell Brand must not be over Katy Perry yet, as his character, Lonny, comes dangerously close to making out with Baldwin’s Dennis. As funny as it was to see them warble REO Speedwagon to each other, it doesn’t make up for Lonny getting Starship’s “We Built This City” stuck in my head the entire weekend; managing editor Joe Bardi put me on suicide watch after learning that.
So, in the end, you can take it or leave it. You can watch Rock of Ages — or you can stay home, have a Monster Ballads karaoke jam and make your own popcorn. The experiences will be equally meaningful.