Review: Rock of Ages
I don't know who created kitsch, but whoever it was I hope they are on a percentage; once you move beyond old hat notions of Good and Bad than suddenly you can make a buck out of almost anything.
Nothing is so bad, so execrable or even evil that it cannot be revived and repackaged.
Rock of Ages is a lucrative karaoke musical providing the kitsch of life to 80's hair metal bands like Poison, Journey, Def Leppard, etc.
The West End production has a poster that features Justin Lee Collins and a man with a 'hooray for boobies' T-shirt: the film has Russell Brand doing a Brummie accent, Mary J. Blige running a strip club and Tom Cruise as a rock god.
Now I am not going to say it isn't fun. I could see contentment, mild, on people's faces and heard laughter that wasn't quite a roar, but it is that modern, anaemic, Saturday night telly approximation of fun. It's the kind of fun that wants you to get up and meet it half way but there isn't enough juice here to rally the non-devotee. The plot is a casual slapping together of clich�s – the small town girl new in the big city, boy meets girl, pressures of fame and the big show to raise money to save the venue, all set on Sunset Strip in 1988.
The opening number on a greyhound bus is witty but the staging of almost everything else is flat and sexless. The performances are generally enjoyable but I draw the line at Cruise. His character, Stacee Jaxx, is a composite of numerous real-life strutting, superficial, empty shell rock stars: so I can see the reason behind his casting. Cruise though snuffs out any hint of danger.
The film has two main problems. Firstly the music is still godawful after all these years and there's not enough elbow kitsch in the whole wide world to make it sparkle. I arrived in expectation of nostalgic reconciliation and found that I had been right all along. The few good songs in the film are chucked away over the credits or chopped up to fit the demands of the musical.
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Secondly, and more pressingly, it just isn't bad enough. Mamma Mia became such a success because it had great music (albeit performed terribly) but mostly because of all those unbelievable moment of jaw-dropping horror.
It tries – there is a Baldwin/Brand duet and a Zeta-Jones routine in a church that is mortifying; but there's nothing close to a Pierce Brosnan moment.
ROCK OF AGES (12A)
Director: Adam Shankman
Starring: Julianne Hough, Diego Boneta, Alec Baldwin, Paul Giamatti, Russell Brand, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Tom Cruise
Length: 123 mins