MOVIE REVIEW by: Jenny Aluning
ROCK OF AGES (PG-13)
Director: Adam Shankman
Starring: Julianne Hough, Diego Boneta, Tom Cruise, Alec Baldwin, Catherine Zeta-Jones
I was introduced by my parents to musicals at a young age. The masterpieces of Rodgers and Hammerstein were frequently watched in our household,and it sparked an abiding love for musical theatre. I was lucky enough to have found kindred spirits in my youth group and in one of my best friends. Through them I discovered Andrew Lloyd Webber, the works of Boublil and Schönberg, Hairspray, Mamma Mia, Moulin Rouge… I even enjoyed the High School Musical trilogy! All of the musicals I’ve seen I haven’t felt like I’ve lost anything by only seeing them as a movie and not live on stage. Not so with ‘Rock of Ages’. Set in 1987 Los Angeles, just before the popularity boom of the boy band, rock and roll ruled. The story follows two young people, Drew (Diego Boneta) and Sherrie (Julianne Hough) as they pursue their dreams of fame and love.
Unfortunately, ‘Rock of Ages’ lost something in its translation from stage to screen. Which is surprising considering its director, Adam Shankman is a veteran of this, having so successfully brought Hairspray to the big screen a few years ago. More than likely, its because of ‘Rock of Ages’ itself. This is one musical that needs the stage. The sheer energy of the songs and the dance routines shouldn’t be contained by the 2-dimensionality of the movie screen. Without the energy of a live audience, the movie, when the songs weren’t on, felt flat and choppy. The story was a predictable one and had scenes that’s definitely not for everyone! There were genuine moments of hilarity, mainly from Russell Brand and Alec Baldwin, moments of nostalgia and sprinkles of cringe-worthy moments – and not just from one’s self remembering things like: “Did I really wear that stuff back then?!” or “Was my hair really that big??”
What saved ‘Rock of Ages’ for me was the talent, and in particular, Tom Cruise. Say whatever you like about the man’s personal life and religious beliefs, but there’s absolutely no denying that he is one hell of a talented actor. He has already amazed everyone with his impressive cameo in ‘Tropic Thunder’ where he was barely recognisable as foul-mouthed studio executive, Les Grossman. His portrayal of rock god, Stacee Jaxx is no less impressive. Not only could he act but wow! Could he sing!! He belted out “Wanted: Dead or Alive” like he was the original singer! He was totally mesmerizing in the role, expertly toeing that line of believability and credibility with just hints of going over the top.
I also loved seeing Catherine Zeta-Jones back on screen. The last 3 years have been tough for her (she has been supporting husband, Michael Douglas through his battle with cancer) and it was fantastic to see her back. Now she was over-the-top!! But in a good way. She played Patricia Whitmore, wife of Mayor Mike Whitmore (deliciously ‘bad’, Bryan Cranston), as passionately as any zealot trying to rid the Sunset Strip of ‘evil’, aka rock and roll. Her comedic and musical talents were in full display and it was fantastic to watch.
The two leads however, Diego Boneta and Julianne Hough, were lukewarm for me. There’s no denying that there’s talent there with both pulling off their musical numbers quite well but their characters were imminently unlikeable that I couldn’t fully get behind their story. Julianne has a strong voice, yes, but she was way too doe-eyed and sugary-sweet for me. Her choreography was more appropriate for a barely-teen Vanessa Hudgens in the first High School Musical than for the 24-year old Hough. Meanwhile, Diego Boneta, flip-flopped from naive to edgy, from whiny, and even to wimpy. The only parts where I really liked him was when he was singing. It’s there that he shows his true potential. I think a few years on the Broadway stage surrounded by seasoned performers from whom he could learn from, would transform him into a great artist.
Other standouts in the supporting cast were Paul Giamatti, playing super slimy and manipulative, Paul Gill – Stacee’s manager,and Malin Ackerman, playing Rolling Stones reporter, Constance Sack. She was both uptight and so sexual, it was funny to see her play that tug-of-war with Tom Cruise’s Stacee Jaxx.
For it’s flaws, I still enjoyed ‘Rock of Ages’. I was infinitely glad that I had chosen a quiet night to see it and so the theater was nearly empty, as I was bobbing my head (rock and roll style!) and tapping my feet to the music. A recommendation though, there are a lot of sexual nuances to the film, so carefully decide who you watch it with!
‘Rock of Ages’ – a great film to reminisce about, or be introduced to the fun of rock and roll. Good times!