x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Rock of Ages: we've seen it all before

This rock musical has a tired, predictable plot and the song choice is weak.

Julianne Hough and Diego Boneta in Rock of Ages.
Julianne Hough and Diego Boneta in Rock of Ages.

Rock of Ages

Director: Adam Shankman

Starring: Diego Boneta, Julianne Hough, Tom Cruise



Based on the successful stage musical that uses rock anthems to tell the tale of romance, musical ambition and corporate shenanigans, Rock of Ages has a surprisingly bland selection of songs and a weak plot that's almost identical to Burlesque (2010), right down to a club being threatened with closure. If this movie were a song, it would be (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction.

Every musical lives and dies by its tunes and given the catalogue of rock anthems available to the filmmakers, it's a sign of the paucity of the production that the song choices are so insipid. Bon Jovi and Guns N' Roses are counterbalanced by Foreigner and Pat Benatar. What's worse is that the renditions voiced by the actors are mostly flat and lack gusto.

The two young leads never catch light. The Burlesque support act Julianne Hough is the headline act here: she plays Sherrie Christian – a small-town girl who heads to Sunset Strip in Los Angeles armed with her vinyl collection and a head full of dreams. These dreams turn sour when she's mugged straight off the bus, but her luck soon turns in the shape of dreamy Drew Boley (Boneta), who gets Sherrie a waitressing job at a legendary rock venue. They get together, break up and make up. Yawn.

The underperforming venue is managed by the world-weary Dennis Dupree (Alec Baldwin), who is aided by his outré right hand man Lonny, played by the British comedian Russell Brand, who disappoints in a role that should play to his many strengths. Instead, he just seems to karaoke his lines in.

The only cast members who leave the stage with their reputations intact are the big stars: Catherine Zeta-Jones and Cruise. Zeta-Jones has good form in musicals; she won an Oscar for her exuberant turn in Chicago, and here gives a comic touch as the mayor's "religious" wife, determined to see Sunset Strip rid of all its unsavoury rock clubs.

Her bête noir is the ageing rock legend Stacee Jaxx – a mostly topless Cruise, who has fun sending up rock legends such as Steve Tyler, David Bowie and Mick Jagger. This performance does leave one wondering if Cruise's career has become a pastiche of itself: after all, his best turns in recent years have all been glorified cameos in the likes of Tropic Thunder and Magnolia, where he gets laughs simply by being over the top.