Starring: Tom Cruise, Alec Baldwin, Russell Brand, Malin Akerman, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Paul Giamatti, Julianne Hough, Mary J. Blige, Diego Bonetta, Bryan Cranston
Stadium rock was as much a staple of the eighties as shoulder pads and Rubik’s cubes and bands such as Foreigner, Def Leppard, Poison, Whitesnake, Van Halen, Bon Jovi and Journey were the order of the day, packing out venues and dominating the charts. The girls were getting in on the action as well with the likes of Pat Benetar and Joan Jett holding their own against the guys. It’s hardly surprising then that the era produced some of the most anthemic songs ever written. It’s even less surprising that someone then decided to gather theses songs together and write a jukebox musical around them. And so Rock of Ages was born in all its glory and it proved a huge hit with audiences.
Given its popularity and the enduring appeal of the songs featured, it was only a matter of time before someone decided to adapt the stage version in to a film and this is the result – a toe-tapping, rip roaring, feel good, sing-a-long epic.
The underlying story is pretty standard fare. A “small town girl”, Sherrie (Hough) arrives in Hollywood with big dreams. She meets a boy, Drew (Bonetta), who shares her ambitions and they fall in love. However when Drew mistakenly thinks she has slept with uber rock star Stacee Jaxx (Cruise) he cruelly dumps her and they both suffer mixed fortunes and learn some hard life lessons before reuniting and finally achieving their ambitions.
However, this movie isn’t really about the story, it’s about the music. Some ingenious mash-ups and unique takes on classic tracks such as Just Like Paradise, Pour Some Sugar on Me and I Wanna Know What Love Is, totally elevate this movie from a typical boy meets girl yarn. There are also some hilarious sub plots, including my personal on screen bromance of the year between Russell Brand and Alec Baldwin as Lonny and Dennis – the manager and owner of The Burbon Rooms, a top rock venue. This pair definitely deserve some awards for their double act and they steal the show in their scenes.
Paul Giamatti is suitably sleazy as Stacee Jaxx’s corrupt manager, while Zeta-Jones plays a blinder as the uptight Patrica Whitmore, wife of the Los Angeles mayor, who is hiding a secret rock chick past.
The biggest surprise of the film is definitely Tom Cruise, who lives up to all the advance hype about his performance as Jaxx. He completely channels his inner rock god and you get the feeling that he’s been singing in to his hairbrush in front of a mirror for years before landing this role. He sings all of his own songs and it has to be said that he has an impressive voice. At times he borders on stereotyping but he manages to pull it back before it becomes too much.
Music fans will also love a protest scene that sees some well known chart toppers make cameo appearances, including 80s pop princess Debbie Gibson and rockers Sebastian Bach of Skid Row fame and Extreme’s Nuno Bettencourt.
This is not trying to be War and Peace. Rather it is a straightforward fun movie that wears its heart firmly on its sleeve. Yes, it has some cheesy lines (“Tell them I’m busy. Busy falling in love.”) and there are many clichés littered throughout, but ultimately this is massively entertaining. You leave the cinema happier than you went in (and with a strange urge to sing rock songs) which is all you can really hope for from a movie.