Rock of Ages

“Rock of Ages” is a unapolagetic mash-up of 80s pop-rock and hair metal music, loosely held together by a storyline of stereotypical rock and roll elements: the wide-eyed midwest ingenue coming to LA, the busboy with the desire to be a big star, the scumbag agent, the skeevy middle-aged club owner, the Tipper Gore-esque crusader, and of course, the larger than life rock star who’s lost touch with reality.

If you “ain’t lookin’ for nothin’ but a good time”, you’ve found it. There’s actually a lot of fun to be had here.

It does, however, get better than this.

From the opening shot of Julianne Hough’s bus ride to LA, when the passengers bust out Night Ranger’s “Sister Christian” with her, “Rock of Ages” establishes its tone in two ways. 1) It’s going to be full of the music of the 1980s and 2) Said music is only going to be loosely fitting lyrically to the scenes they’re used in.

Yes, “Rock of Ages” is a non-stop parade of 80s music… virtually every rock artist that ever charted in that decade is represented: Journey, Bon Jovi, Reo Speedwagon, Foreigner, Def Leppard, Twisted Sister, Pat Benatar, David Lee Roth, Joan Jett, Whitesnake… and many, many, many more. Often the songs are cut together or played off of each other in mash-ups, and other times we’re only given a brief snippet. At all times, they’re only vaguely applicable to the scenes they’re used in.

As opposed to classic musicals which wrote their own songs, however, “Rock of Ages”‘ style of karaoke dj’ing takes famous songs and uses them at times or in ways that would be vaguely appropriate. Romance happening? Foreigner’s “Waiting for a Girl Like You” Zeta Jones rallying her moral majority troops to protest? Pat Benatar’s “Hit Me with Your Best Shot”. Stacee Jaxx trying to express the loneliness of Rock and Roll superstardom? Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead or Alive”…

Which is essentially my biggest beef with the movie. It’s really actually a very slight story that only serves to string together music videos, which in turn only apply to the story in the thinnest of ways. It all adds up to be wayyy beyond non-substantive.

But that’s alright to me because it’s very entertaining.

I’ll openly admit to having a soft spot for this music. This was “my era” so to speak, with the jean jackets and the chicks with the huge hair, etc etc… and time has a way of breeding a fondness for the music of your era even if it was trite garbage that during the day you turned your nose up at. Yes, even though my friends and I were forced to mitigate the incessant stream of sugar-coated pop/rock vapidity with copious amounts of early Guns and Roses, Suicidal Tendencies, and pre-Black Album Metallica, I’ll admit that the confectionary ear candy utilized by “Rock of Ages” resonates with me now on a nostalgic level.

Should someone not have that special soft spot, they may not connect with the movie as I did, but they may be won over by the cast, regardless. Hough and Boneta are at the forefront, and they’re fine… they each sing well enough, and are both young and enthusiastic. It’s the big names that give the movie its mojo though. To a person, the stars in the cast here go all out. They completely give themselves to their performances. Zeta Jones performs “Hit Me with Your Best Shot” with the intensity of an angry, kickboxing cheerleader. Cruise lolls his head around and utters non-sequitors like a lobotomized space cadet, but then writhes and exhalts on stage as if he was actually a rock star and not a movie star. Giamatti is a scummy, sleazy devil of a manager, and Baldwin and Brand have a duet that is beyond hysterical.

“Rock of Ages” may be a thin excuse to trot out 80s music and let everyone play at rock and roll for a couple of hours, but its definitely fun and at times, a LOT of fun. It may literally BE “nothin’ but a good time”, but I found it hard to resist.

B+

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31 thoughts on “Rock of Ages

  1. Loved it, loved it, loved it!! Impressed with most of the singing voices of those not noted for their singing.(Cruise, Baldwin) This is music I got older with (notice I didn’t say “grew up on” ’cause I haven’t really grown up) My feet were tapping throught the movie. Of course it has the great Paul Giamatti and that get a big thumbs up just for that. This has a strong chance of getting on my best of list this year.

    • Well, glad you liked it too. I know Chris claims to be a “big musical guy” so I imagine that had to come from somewhere :D

      I don’t know if it stands a shot at mine. The music was fun, the characters were fun, there were some really funny moments. But I hope there’s more “solid” movies coming up.

      Who knows though, maybe… We’re halfway through and there haven’t been many solid candidates yet.

  2. I’m actually glad to here this! I was thinking this was going to be a dismal excuse to include rock and roll in a movie and then not only ruin the theater experience but also make me change the way I look at 80′s music. I am going to give this a shot, when I get a chance. I’m on this kick of reading rockers autobiographies, so this would just fit right in. Your review reads like you actually had fun. Thanks for the useful review!

    • It’s VERY “pop” rock, just to be clear. LOL.

      Entertaining enough though, Ray. Bunch of really funny moments, and then some great music vignettes to offset the ones that are just saccharin overdose, you know? LOL

      Worth a look see, I know you’re a music fan.

  3. Fun fluff is about all I was really expecting from this, so I’m glad it lives up to that. It’s too bad they couldn’t have tied things together a bit tighter, but as long as it’s still reasonably entertaining, it should be all right.

    • That’s it in a nutshell man. “Reasonably entertaining”, and mainly because they really didn’t tie it together too well.

      At times it felt like the plot points were there in order to work the songs in, and not the other way around.

      Still fun though. Cruise was great…

  4. Thank you for the review and I will steer clear of this like a helmsman avoids a reef. 80s pop, hair metal. The very thing I couldn’t stand while growing up and being a teenager. Don’t want to relive those horrid years again.

    The only music movie I ever thought was close to my genre was Rockstar with Mark Wahlberg. Oh yeah, yippee, Jennifer Anniston was in it. I understood the premise of the movie and the character it was loosely based on. Tim “Ripper” Owens and Judas Priest. Real heavy metal. Most of these music oriented movies fall so short f me. Mainly because the actors couldn’t hold a note to save their life, Mamma Mia comes to mind, And partly because its so fabricated you can’t even have the slightest belief its close to actual life.

    Maybe its my bias being a hardcore “metalhead” and anti-hype, and anti-radio crap. lol

    • I totally understand man. I caught myself wishing I could get something a little heavier during several points during this movie.

      LOL… but they dont DO metal versions of movies like this… Thankfully!! :D

      There’s not a lot of great singing here, either. I’ve never seen Mama Mia so I cant speak to it. :D I take it that’s a good thing?

      • If you want your favorite Abba songs ruined by a bunch of older men and women, watch it. I watched it with my wife and it was excruciatingly painful. Amanda Siegfried seemed to be the only one who can get close. Plus it was a chick flick, so nobody died, nothing got blown up, no super heroes to save the day. lol

  5. I guess my 80s wasn’t your 80s. I was never that much into this kind of mainstream hit list music; I was always more into punk/new wave/rock. This is super cheesy. Like strawberry flavored chewing gum. But if you like that kind of gum, I suppose it’s a treat.

    As of me I was more bored than I’ve been in a theatre for a very long time. It felt ENDLESS. One hour was about as much as I could stand. The second one was torture. My husband wasn’t as infuriated as I was; he said he had zoned out after 15 minutes…

    • “I guess my 80s wasn’t your 80s.”

      Apparently so. This movie was like raiding the music of my high school years. Most of it wasn’t my personal music mind you, like you said, this music WAS super cheese. But it was always around nonetheless.

      If you dont have the nostalgia for the music and that 80s metal / sunset strip era… then yeah, this movie would hold nothing for you. LOL It would just vanish into thin air I imagine. :D

  6. Glad it’s not as bad as the reviews out there Fogs! I grew up listening to 80s hard rock. Now what’s your favorite band/song? Mine was Heaven from Warrant, man I played that over and over again. I also love Skid Row, Guns n Roses, and Def Leppard, whilst my hubby LOVES Europe, ahah. I’d watch this one for nostalgia sake, but might just rent this one.

    • I was into the metal side of things, so something Ozzy, or Guns, or Motley Crue before they totally became a pop band. You know.

      Paradise City? Song makes me go nuts. LOL :D

      Its a fun enough thing to watch, especially if you’re just going to rent it. Good mindless entertainment. Thats how I saw it, Ruth.

  7. I’m actually surprised you gave it higher than a C. Not having seen it yet, I’m guessing my soft spot for 80s rock probably will taint the predictable story too. Still anxious to see it and also see how loud I can sing in the theater before I get kicked out. (Forget sci-fi movies, this is a movie I could cosplay.) :D

    I know one person who has seen the Broadway musical and I’m anxious to hear his review of the movie adaptation.

    • No problem Max, its how we do… you should know :D!!

      I’ll be interested to hear your take. If you ask anything of it, it’ll probably disappoint… but if you just go in and have a little fun, you’ll probably enjoy it.

  8. Glad you enjoyed it, Fogs! I did as well, although my biggest complaint was that I felt like I was watching a bunch of music videos stringed together, similar to what you said. The story line felt really weak, but between some of the performances and Tom Cruise’s hilarity, I enjoyed it. Nice review.

    • Thanks! Sounds like we see eye to eye on it (That feels like such a pun looking at your gravatar. LOL) :D

      It totally was a series of videos. I think maybe if the songs were more directly connected to what was going on, it wouldnt have felt that way. But there were times when there was only the thinnest possible connection between the tune they chose and what was going on…

  9. I’m hoping to see this one, since I’m apparently from the same generation as you are. The biggest challenge is that my usual movie buddy isn’t as into this music, so I have to try to convince him that Catherine Zeta-Jones will be worth sitting through the rest of it.

    I checked out the soundtrack and every song is one I know, so hopefully I won’t turn into one of those annoying audience members that I’m usually rolling my eyes at. And then hopefully I can get the music out of my head so that I’m not repeating it for a week!

    • I had to listen to a lot of Def Leppard afterwards. LOL

      Just don’t expect all too much… the story is kind of weak, and I think most of it is based around Rock and Roll cliches (intentionally)… but the cast is great, and theres some really funny moments, so, I liked it well enough. :)

  10. If Diego Boneta and Julianne Hough weren’t the leads, and Rock of Ages just focused on Baldwin, Brand, Akerman, Giamatti, and Cruise, the whole film would have been,

    a) a better length, and
    b) more entertaining

    The older set proves to be much more compelling and magnetic than the two young principals. Not that Boneta and Hough don’t have talent; he can sing, she can dance, and so on. But they’re really dull as primaries, bland as bland gets; meanwhile everyone else save for Cruise is just having fun hamming it up with their terrible dialogue. Cruise himself is operating on a whole other plane of acting here; he’s frigging amazing. “I Want to Know What Love Is” is the film’s high water mark, easily.

    • Baldwin: The leads are weak? The %#$&ing LEADS are weak? YOU’RE weak.

      (Hoping you’ve seen Glengarry Glen Ross LOL)

      No, man, you’re right, totally, they are definitely one of the weak links in the chain. I still found the entire movie on the whole to be entertaining enough. I enjoyed it.

      They’re definitely not up to the rest of the cast’s calibre though.

      Although I think “I cant fight this feeling” was the films best moment. LOL. Good grief was that funny.

  11. Ok, I’ve finally made my way over here! LOL!

    First off, let me say, I LOVED this movie. Cruise nailed the role, he was hysterical & embodied a slightly mad, drunk/high rock star beautifully. Brand & Baldwin killed me, I mean literally killed me with their duet; that was a riot. Paul Giamatti was so slimy-80s-music-business-dude, he was great. Loved Mary J. Blige too! Not huge on Hough or Boneta, although I did dig his singing voice. Hough though reminded me of a 16 year old girl trying to sound sexy by using a faux 4 year old voice, ick, pure ick (good dancer, bad actress/singer – stick to the dancing Julianne).

    Ok, so, secondly: “It’s really actually a very slight story that only serves to string together music videos…” Well, guess what, that exactly how it was written! The movie is based on the musical which was written around the songs! And, basically, that’s how many musicals happen, whether the songs are original or “covers.” The songs serve the purpose of the stories’ existence, songs are written/used and strung together to form the story. This is why some people do not like musicals, because they seem corny & contrived. That’s also why musicals as movies are rarely well received by the masses. I, however, love movies that make me want to sing out loud in the theatre (I restrained myself though -mostly- but I couldn’t help shakin’ my head & playing some air drums & guitar!).

    Had a bunch of fun at this one and I’m considering buying the soundtrack because I really enjoy Cruise’s singing. Great review, Dan!

    • Again, my apology on the lateness of this, I had a whole bunch of replies get eaten yesterday somehow.

      We’re in agreement on the movie as a whole I think, in terms of enjoying it etc etc.

      So instead, lets spend our time nitpicking movie minutae! :D :D (I love this stuff)

      I get it, I hear you on the Musicals, and agree on the “Nature” of them. Yes, the stars are the songs and the story exists to move from song to song… but to me there’s a huge gap in between the cohesiveness of traditional musicals that write their own music as they create the story and musicals like this that try to create a story based on pre-existing tunes. Sometimes the tunes dont fit all that well. Where as in a musical that was put together from start to finish at the same time… the songs are always a perfect fit, because they were “Tailor made”.

      There were times it was a bit too obvious to me that the “Rock of Ages” tunes were “Off the rack”.
      :D

      As always, thank you for adding to the content!!

  12. Yeah, I thought the film was a really good time as well. I feel the same way about the music. I was always into heavier stuff, but there’s no denying the soft spot I have for the hair metal from the 80′s. Great review.

    • Thanks Shane, yeah, me too. It’s so funny how that works. I mean, if you had told me back then… hey, when you get older, youre gonna love this song, I’d be like, shut up… PRIEST RULES!!!
      :D

      The movie was just fun, that’s all.

  13. Pingback: The Large Association of Movie Blogs | LAMBScores: Rock of Ages, That’s My Boy and Your Sister’s Sister

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