2 stars (out of four)
Rated PG-13 for sexual content, suggestive dancing, some heavy drinking, and language
Available on: DVD, Blu-ray, digital download and on demand
Sometimes a movie is so gaudy, over-the-top and downright bad that it seems the filmmakers designed it that way. Welcome to “Rock of Ages,” a musical that blends the biggest rock hits of the 1980s with a predictable script and the campiest acting you’ll ever see from A-list stars.
As with the Broadway musical that inspired it, the plot of “Rock of Ages” is just an excuse to move from one famous rock song to another. It centers on Sherrie Christian (Julianne Hough), a Tulsa, Oklahoma, singer who travels to Los Angeles in hopes of becoming a star. Rather than rocket to success, she lands a job as a waitress at the Bourbon Room, a Hollywood rock club on the verge of closure due to unpaid bills. It’s a tough gig, but Sherrie is happy because she falls for a handsome co-worker named Drew (Diego Boneta).
As the film progresses, it follows the romance between Drew and Sherrie while also detailing the struggles of the Bourbon Room. The club owner (Alec Baldwin) is a true rock ’n’ roller, and he hopes to pay off his debts by staging a concert featuring rock superstar Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise). This leads to more obstacles, however, as the Los Angeles mayor’s wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones) launches a church protest against the show.
This is pretty cliché stuff, but the heart of the movie lies in frequent breaks that have the cast performing songs ranging from Night Ranger’s “Sister Christian” to Pat Benatar’s “Hit Me With Your Best Shot.” Fans of 1980s music will find a sense of nostalgia in the tunes, and the actors can sing, but none of the performances top those in the original recordings. That means viewers are left with a musical that has a weak plot and so-so soundtrack, a bad combination if ever there’s been one.
The strange thing is, one has to believe that director Adam Shankman – who also made 2007’s “Hairspray” – knew he was making a bad movie and decided to celebrate the flaws. To some degree, the unusual strategy works because there’s an odd joy in watching Baldwin and co-star Russell Brand belt out a bad version of REO Speedwagon’s “I Can’t Fight This Feeling.” It’s even more fun to watch Cruise sink into the role of Stacee Jaxx. He attacks the material with gusto, delivering a performance so theatrical that it’s impossible to look away.
None of this makes the film good, but it makes it goofy enough that it’s easy to imagine “Rock of Ages” becoming a sing-along cult hit along the lines of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”
DVD and Blu-ray extras include an extended cut of the film, a short about the Sunset Strip music scene and a bit about life in the 1980s.