I make it no secret that I have a tendency to enjoy movies that critics hate. I mean, not everything, but some of my favorite movies are just absolute critical failures.
And Rock of Ages is no different.
I’m not going to lie. I expected it to be a bit of a critical failure. It’s a movie jukebox musical with 80s hair metal songs. This doesn’t exactly scream movie critic fodder. Even I was expecting to enjoy only parts of it with Tom Cruise playing over-the-top rock star Stacee Jaxx and not really being familiar with the two actors playing Sherrie and Drew.
What I didn’t expect was a completely ridiculous and fun movie about music, love, and following your dreams.
The first act of the film is a bit slow, but as soon as the bus carrying Sherrie Christian (played by Julianne Hough) away from Tulsa starts singing the chorus of ‘Sister Christian’, I knew I was going to love this movie. This realization was only made worse as soon as Russell Brand sauntered on screen as Bourbon Room manager Lonny Barnett singing Poison’s ‘Ain’t Nothing But A Good Time’.
Tom Cruise as a completely ridiculous and barely coherent frontman certainly didn’t help matters either. As soon as I saw him fall into his hot tub in his assless chaps and dragon codpiece, I knew I had to take back everything terrible I had said about him playing Jaxx before I even saw the movie. I think Cruise is realizing that he has a penchant for comedy, since this might be on the level of Les Grossman for me.
I think the magic of this movie is that everyone involved looks like they’re having a great time. They’re not going into this expecting to win a million awards, but because they know that this kind of production is going to be a ton of fun. I think Catherine Zeta-Jones is proof of this. This is the first musical she’s done since 2002’s Chicago, where she won the Academy Award for her performance as Velma Kelly. In her Daily Show interview, she talks about how she joined the cast because she knew it was going to be fun. Her performance as the uptight Patricia Whitmore shows that she’s having a great time, even more so when she’s singing Pat Benetar in the the middle of a church.
In fact, I think the only cast member I really didn’t care for at the end of it was Hough, and that was more of an ambivalence towards her voice and the character of Sherrie. Yeah, her and Drew are cute, but something about their relationship seems so miniscule when Stacee Jaxx and Constance Sack (Malin Akerman, who I still haven’t forgiven for Watchmen) are having hilarious awkward pool table/condom machine breaking sex and Lonny and Dennis Dupree (Alec Baldwin) are declaring their love for each other while singing REO Speedwagon. In fact, the only things about the film plot wise that really disappointed me were that Lonny and Dennis weren’t more couple-like after their declaration and that we really don’t know anything about Justice Charlier. C’mon people, it’s 2012. I want more than just gay kissing and Mary J. Blige just being there with her awesome voice!
Still, I’m glad that the cast wasn’t in a Mamma Mia! like situation where only half of the cast could actually sing. I didn’t hate that movie either, but Rock of Ages already comes out ahead in my book for having cast members that could actually perform. I know that there are frustrated fans of the original musical out there for all the changes and who believe that the cast in the movie isn’t as good, but let’s be honest. While most of what I’ve seen of the original musical is their hilarious performance at the Tonys (I’m a broke post-grad, I can’t afford to see musicals in theaters), it’s a well-known fact that not everything that works on stage translates to screen. From what I know of the musical, the changes actually make sense and come down from the book writer anyway. I reserve the right to change this opinion later, but for now, the movie can stay.
So can Diego Boneta, who is fantastic despite my ambivalence towards Drew, and performs the best fake boyband song since ‘Backdoor Lover’ by DuJour. And if you get that reference, you are automatically my new favorite person.
I imagine that it will be exiting theaters fairly quickly, but I suggest giving Rock of Ages a chance at some point. It’s a fun movie that doesn’t take itself too seriously, which I think is something that we all need every now and again. Plus, some of the covers in the film are extremely well done. Who knew stripper shoes could be percussive!