Rock of Ages 2012

film

It’s 1987 and a small town girl arrives in Hollywood pursuing her dreams of being a rock star, but not all goes to plan when she bumps into a city boy with the same desires.

There are times when you worry about people messing with the music you love, so we were a little apprehensive when we pressed play on the Rock of Ages DVD; would we love it or would we be so annoyed at anyone daring to mess with songs that should never be covered, we’d angrily dust off the vinyl to cleanse our ears?

Not having seen the stage show, which has been a hit across the world and nominated for five Tony awards, we only had the hype and marketing surrounding this Hollywood adaptation to go by. Call us cynical but we try and not get too dragged into what movie marketing departments want us to believe, we try and keep an open mind. Tough to do when you already know a movie contains songs by rock legends such as Journey, Bon Jovi, Pat Benatar, Poison, Europe and Extreme, but you’re unsure if these rock classics will be dishonoured by Simon Cowell type re-imaginings.

A massive sigh of relief and a huge sign of the devil then to director Adam Shankman and his entire cast and crew, not least of all the writers, because we absolutely loved this movie.

The songs were performed brilliantly and the story plays out the legendary way many of these rock bands made their way to stardom, Tom Cruise as aging rocker Stacee Jaxx was fantastic, who knew he would sound so much like Jon Bon Jovi? Malin Akerman provides his love interest and, in true rock style, has no problem looking gorgeous as she sings and dances in her underwear. The costumes, the over the top hair, the dirty leather jackets mixed with glam rockers, and the copious amounts of whiskey drinking paints the sort of pictures, albeit milder ones, you have in your mind as you read books like Motley Crue’s The Dirt or Aerosmith’s Walk This Way.

The film’s main story centres on two characters. Young naïve Sherrie (Julianne Hough) and Drew (Diego Boneta). Sherrie has just arrived in town and, with no cash, bumps into Drew who gets her a job at the dingy but legendary club The Bourbon Room. They then play out the classic boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back storyline to the back drop of some incredible musical performances that truly reflect the music the way it was supposed to be. No messing around trying to remix the music or lyrics or anything else like that, just straight up covers of excellent songs used perfectly to enhance the story. So much so we were dancing and singing along and fist pumping in the air with approval as each song started.

There are a few sub plots too. Paul Giammatti plays Jaxx’s ruthless manager always trying to double cross anyone he can whilst Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand provide the comedy as they battle to save The Bourbon Room when Hollywood mayor (Bryan Cranston) and his wife (Catherine Zeta Jones) declare war on the music they claim is ruining the youth of today.

In fact the chemistry between Baldwin and Brand is exceptional. There are no spoilers here but part of us hopes these two have a spin-off of their own. Russell’s dodgy Birmingham accent pays tribute, kind of, to rock legends Black Sabbath, Slade and Judas Priest while Alec’s foppish hair and sheer passion for music gives a lovely nod to many failed rock acts who opened bars and tried to help along all the other wanna-be rock stars.

As massive music fans we really were ready to hate this movie if they messed with our youth, but in the end we were singing along, dancing, and, we must confess, downloading the soundtrack the second the credits rolled. If you grew up in the 80’s and love rock we are sure you’ll love this film, it’s practically a Blues Brothers for the rock generation.

If you are new to 80’s rock though, we are sure you will love it too. It’ll open your mind to music you might have never heard of before and that’s exactly what Rock of Ages is about, loving the music for what it is, for singing and dancing at the top of your voice and for never forgetting that we really did build this city on Rock and Roll.

Best scene: Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand sing REO: Speedwagon
Best lines: Club owner Dennis Dupree sees a New Kids on the Block style boy band for the first time: “Oh my god, I just threw up… in my pants, out of my ass.”

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Disappointing if we’re honest. Considering the majority of people buying this film will be music or theatre fans some extras that allowed you to sing along or perhaps re-live some of the original music videos would be great. Instead we have the trailer, which is never an extra, we’ve already bought the film you don’t need to sell it to us again, and an advert for visiting Florida? Again, how is that an extra?

To be fair there is a short behind the scenes featurette and also Def Leopard perform two hits live at the premier, but these snippets don’t go far enough to add anything extra to what is a fantastic movie.
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  1. Mike Shawcross

    This is one of those films that film critics hate and people (like me) who grew up with this music and in this time just love. Great review and I agree it's so much fun! Was never expecting Cruise to pull it off but he did – he makes the film for me!

    • Paul Hutchinson In reply to Mike Shawcross

      Thanks Mike.
      I agree, critics don't tend to like movies like this. Mark Kermode annoyed me for saying the 'big hair' was a negative point… erm, it's set in the 80s in a rock bar, what did you expect?
      Too much snobbery in the movie world, sometimes a movie is just about having a laugh!