Tuesday, July 10, 2012
Movie review: Rock of Ages
It appears Hollywood has finally found my Achilles' Heel. My kryptonite. My color yellow. My Aphrodite's Law (Look it up). I've mentioned in the past that I have weakness for musicals, that putting almost any movie to song can potentially earn it a pass from me. It's a gaping hole in my critical spectrum. Add to that an affection for 80's rock (but then who doesn't have one of those) ans you've got a movie I might very well be powerless.
The point of all that was of course a defense of the fact that I actually enjoyed myself at Rock of Ages. It wasn't good, if fact it ranks among the worst musicals I've ever seen in my life, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy parts of it. But keep in mind, I only enjoyed it on the most basic level: "Hey, a bunch of not-completely-horrible-for-the-most-part covers of songs a hear all the time of my local classic rock station! I'm mildly amused by this!"
Of course, beyond triggering whatever head-banging instinct you favorite 80's music compels, there's absolutely nothing good or even watchable about this thing. It's as blandly written & acted as a High School Musical movie and as soulless & unimaginative musically as the worse episode of Glee (a show whose popularity this film can doubtlessly by blamed for).
It's main problem stems from the fact that it's a jukebox musical, using preexisting songs in loo of writing new ones. This doesn't have to be a problem, but it always is, because the writers & composers always feel the need to limit them selves to the work of one specific artist, genre, or era in the name of a gimmick, and they almost never make any significant changes to the lyrics or music. As a result the story is at the service of the songs, instead of the other way around, resulting in scripts that are generic at best and confused at worse. The jukebox musical has worked a grand total of once before, and it was called Moulin Rouge. They succeeded there because of their willingness to get creative with the songs they picked (and not limiting their selection, obviously). Their use of The Police's "Roxanne" is an excellent example of this, taking a song whose lyrics fit the scenario & then completely changing the melody to make a dark tango to fit the mood of the scene. In Rock of Ages, by contrast, the songs are virtually identical to the original, just with shittier vocals.
Okay, to be fair they do make a few changes, most by doing song mashups, a practice popularized by Glee (seriously, this movie could only be more Glee if Jane Lynch was the villain). Some of them are enjoyable, the best one being a mashup of Foreigner's "Juke Box Hero" & Joan Jett's "I Love Rock 'n Roll". In fact, here it is:
There, now you don't have to see the movie. You're welcome.
But other than that, the songs are essentially unchanged, and often times their use is outright nonsensical. For example, there's one point where Drew, our male lead, is lead to believe his girlfriend, Sherrie has cheated on him moments before thrust onstage to perform. So what song does his choose to express his anger and emotional turmoil over this betrayal?
And then there's the scene where Sherrie is forced to become a stripper to make ends meet, a plot point that is played for the rest of the movie as her low point, the hell she must escape from and be reunited with her love. What song did the select for this scene?
What. The. Hell.
The only good element is Tom Cruise giving another bizarre satirical performance as rock star Stacie Jaxx. Sure, he can't really sing for shit, but I've seen worse non-singer actors in musicals. Every time he appears it feels like a deleted scene from Tenacious D & the Pick of Destiny. He has one kinda funny sex scene with Malin Akerman in which they sing "I Wanna Know What Love Is", the juxtaposition of which is the closest the movie comes to clever.
I've certainly seen worse musicals (the wretched Camp being the gold standard of shit), but there's absolutely nothing about the film worth seeing that you can't get by just listening to the soundtrack, or better yet, just turning into the local classic rock station.