So I did an experiment. My husband and I saw Rock of Ages the Musical first, on Broadway in December 2012. We hadn't seen the movie yet, but we knew this was a show that creatively threaded 80's hair band music throughout a relevant plot. Sort of the way it worked with Mamma Mia...the words to each song made sense to what was going on. And friends, I grew up on this music. I HAD that kind of hair. I drove to my first year of college tossing that hair around to Def Leppard.
So hubby and I saw the show and loved it. It was a tiny bit strange to see a theater full of old farts playing air guitar and singing every word to Twisted Sister and Poison. (In my mind, I'm not an old fart, I'm still not so far away from Bonnie Bell Lip Smackers and Jordache Jeans. Ha!)
The plot was thin and predictable, but extremely fun on stage. I wasn't sure how all this would translate to a full-length movie. The musical DID come first after all, and not the other way around.
I was also (as usual) feeling antagonistic towards supporting anything that featured Tom Cruise. I don't like the man, he is a freak show. But I'll get to that in a minute.
So before I talk about the movie adaptation, let me just briefly fill you in on the general story. Small town girl Sherrie (Julianne Hough) shows up in LA to make it big. Meets a boy (Diego Boneta) who waits tables at a famous institution called The Bourbon Room, and completely smitten with Sherrie, gets her a job there. The bar is owned by Dennis Dupree, an aging hippie (Alec Baldwin) and is managed by his right-hand lackey Lonny Barnett (Russell Brand).
At the same time, conservative Mayor Mike Whitmore (Bryan Cranston) and his church-lady wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones) decide to clean up Sunset Strip and put The Bourbon Room out of business.
The third variable in the equation is larger-than-life drugged-out prima donna rocker Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise), who decides to do one last show with his band at The Bourbon Room before he goes solo.
Mix all that together and there is love and trouble, scandal and misunderstanding, tough lessons learned and a happy ending.
I would compare this movie to Magic Mike. Incredibly LAME premise if you are looking for...let's say...character development? Surprises? Clever twists? But there is so much entertainment on the screen, you are willing to just be happy for a couple of hours in the dark eating your Junior Mints and enjoying the show. Julianne Hough, who starred in the Footloose remake and more recently Safe Haven, is adorable. She can dance, she can sing, and she is cute as a button. Diego Boneta (Pretty Little Liars) is equally as cute. They had good chemistry.
Equally as enjoyable are all the side characters...Baldwin and Brand let it rip, with all their quirkiness and goofiness, and even have a steamy kiss or two. Cranston and Zeta-Jones are great antagonists - you just HATE them. You want them to crash and burn.
But I HAVE to say...and I feel like I keep repeating myself here, movie after movie...is that Cruise stole the show. As much as I loathe that man, he ALWAYS steals the show. His portrayal of Stacee Jaxx (a character compared accurately to a mashup of Axl Rose, Keith Richards and Jim Morrison) was jaw-dropping. He even did his own singing which wasn't bad. Please trust me...your time is well-spent just watching his performance.
All that said, however, this is just not a great choice for a movie adaptation. It should have stayed on stage...it was too long and didn't have enough punch to justify a two hour run time.
But if you still have your leg warmers and acid-washed jeans, have a thirst for a Bartles and James, and feel like a trip down memory lane? Leave your expectations on the shelf with Citizen Kane and have some fun.
3 out of 5 stars