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Film review: 'Rock of Ages' stewed in irony?

June 14, 2012|By Andy Klein
  • Malin Akerman as Constance Sack and Tom Cruise as Stacee Jaxx in New Line Cinema's "Rock of Ages," a Warner Bros. Pictures release.
Malin Akerman as Constance Sack and Tom Cruise as Stacee…

“Rock of Ages” is adapted from a stage musical that — in the manner of “Mamma Mia” and “Jersey Boys” — uses a story as an excuse to resurrect bygone hits with emotional resonance for an aging demographic. This is generally a debased subgenre, though (as my colleague Wade Major points out) one that also includes “Singin' in the Rain.” In the current case, however, the music isn't classic Tin Pan Alley, but rather ’80s power ballads and anthems from the likes of Twisted Sister, Journey, Pat Benatar and Foreigner.

Most of the action takes place on the Sunset Strip in 1987, including a recreated Tower Records and a fictional club called the Bourbon Room. (Gosh, I wonder what real-world venue that's supposed to evoke.) No sooner does sweet wannabe singer Sherrie Christian (Julianne Hough) get off the bus from Oklahoma than she gets a waitress job at the club, thanks to boy-destined-to-be-her-true-love Drew Boley (Diego Boneta).

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The club — run by Dennis Dupree (Alec Baldwin), a graying refugee from the ’60s, and his assistant, Lonny (Russell Brand) — is in dire financial shape, partly because the new mayor's anti-rock wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones) is crusading to shut down this hotbed of sin. She'd really go berserk if the movie hadn't whitewashed the entire rock-club scene (presumably for “family” appeal and a PG-13 rating). If the F-word, or any of its oh-so-common compounds is uttered, it went right past my jaded brain. And, while alcohol is everywhere, drugs appear not to exist. (There is a coy acknowledgment of this conspicuous absence when Zeta-Jones — seemingly about to pull out the old “sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll” line to describe the three things wrong with the Bourbon Room — says, “Sex, satanic music, and — and — sex!”)

In the same scene, Zeta-Jones and her followers break into “Hit Me with Your Best Shot,” accompanied by horrible choreography. The whole number is awkward, as though director Adam Shankman (“Hairspray”), himself a choreographer, is making her do moves she knows are awful.

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