Movie Reviews & Interviews from Washington

‘Rock of Ages’ Review: The Talented Tom Cruise

In some cases Broadway musicals just don’t work on the big screen. In 2005, director Chris Columbus’ Rent didn’t tie the story together, but rather showed us several different sequences of actors running around and singing. That same year, we saw Andrew Lloyd Weber’s masterpiece The Phantom of the Opera, starring an awkward Gerard Butler in an overlong movie suited for TV.

We got lucky with 2002’s Chicago, the Best Picture winner starring Catherine Zeta-Jones and Renee Zellweger, but in most cases I find as much as I have an appreciation for these films and the talent that creates them, it’s best these musicals stick to the stage! I’m hoping for the best this Christmas, when my all-time favorite musical, Les Miserables starring Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe and Anne Hathaway will be released.

In a nutshell, Rock of Ages is 2011’s Burlesque, but with Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand in the late ’80s. Sherrie (Julianne Hough, who is perfect for the role) makes the move from Oklahoma to Los Angeles with one thing in mind: super stardom. She meets Drew (Diego Boneta) who works at The Bourbon Club, famous for rock-n-roll concerts. Drew convinces his boss Dennis (a funny Alec Baldwin) to hire Sherrie as a cocktail waitress and eventually (surprise surprise) the two end up growing closer and dating.

We are introduced to the Mayor (Bryan Cranston) and his wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones), who believes rock-n-roll is the Devil and that everyone involved needs to be cleansed. The film then cuts back to The Bourbon Room, where we see Dennis and his sidekick Lonnie (Russell Brand) discuss the money troubles at the club and wonder how in the heck they are going to keep it afloat…sound like Burlesque anyone??

Later we witness the predictable fight and break up between Sherrie and Drew, they both quit the club, she goes on to work at a strip club with Justice (Mary J. Blige) and he signs on to a boy band with manager Paul (Paul Giamatti).

Rock of Ages features some of the ’80s most classic songs including, “I Love Rock N Roll,” “Wanted Dead or Alive,” “Hit Me With Your Best Shot,” “Pour Some Sugar On Me,” and “Don’t Stop Believin.”

Despite Rock of Ages incredible flaws, it does have one thing we can shoot up our devil horns for: Tom Cruise.

Cruise plays Stacee Jaxx, the tough, brooding rocker all the women swoon over and all the men strive to be like. I put down my notepad and stopped writing during Cruise’s scenes because he’s just that good. The actor has a range that is out of this world. He can do action, Mission Impossible, Minority Report; drama, Vanilla Sky, Rain Man; and remember his early days… Cocktail and Risky Business anyone? Now he can add drunken rocker to his list of immeasurable talents.

In one particular scene backstage at The Bourbon Room, Jaxx and the Rolling Stones reporter, Constance (Malin Akerman) sing, “I Wanna Know What Love Is,” which is without a doubt the best song in the film. It’s funny, self-aware and just makes me wish we saw more of Jaxx in the overall movie.

Director Adam Shankman definitely misses some key notes when turning the Broadway sensation in to to a motion picture, but Cruise’s performance as the disheartened rocker saves the film, that would’ve otherwise been boring and common.

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