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Review: 'Rock of Ages' Nothing but a Crock

The forgettable music of the late-1980s helps sink this clunker, reviewer Dave Wilson says.

Woe to all of you thinking of seeing Rock of Ages. It’s a tepid attempt at resurrecting a best-forgotten era of music and of culture in general: The mid-’80s were just not much fun, and this movie reinforces that notion.

I quit listening to popular rock in general in mid-1987, when this picture is set, at the height of big-hair, cutoff sleeves and the hammer-on, metally overtones of Motley Crue. So this picture’s setting, at the ground zero of the American cultural wasteland, immediately alienated me.

Meanwhile, “Oh the movie never ends/it goes on and on and on and on ...," a reference to a Journey song “Don’t Stop Believin’,” featured endlessly here, perfectly befits this one, which seems an hour too long at 123 minutes.

I tried to conjure an open mind here, but Alec Baldwin caterwauling in this movie ranks as the worst cinematic vocalization since Jack Nicholson in Tommy or Clint Eastwood in Paint Your Wagon. Bad stuff here, folks.

The lone redeeming factor here: A couple of cinemagoers born in about 1987 were doing a synchronized swimming-style routine to many of the Def Leppard songs featured here. It was amusing and sad, in that the audience provided more entertainment than the movie itself.

Culturally, Rock follows in the follicles of and as being one of the hairiest films on recent record. Look for mullets, beards and Aqua Net reinforcing this picture’s worthlessness.

The premise is simple, an Oklahoma-bred girl (Julianne Hough as Sherrie Christian) runs away to Los Angeles with the hopes of making it as a singer. Right after she gets off the bus, she runs into her soulmate (Diego Boneta as Drew Boley), who gets her a job at the Bourbon Room (a thinly veiled reference to the real-life, vaunted Whisky a Go Go on the Sunset Strip, which through the ages featured acts from the Doors to the Red Hot Chili Peppers).

The Bourbon Room is managed by a pair of grimy L.A. slicksters played by Baldwin and Russell Brand, who commandeer the last great appearance of Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise channeling Axl Rose, accompanied always here by a malevolent monkey). A typical Hollywood case of misunderstanding leads to a conflict between Sherrie and Drew, who find monetary relief as strippers and boy-band members respectively.

The hair, Foreigner and Journey tunes and a lame plot make Rock completely unredeeming. One positive is we’re treated here to a nice backdrop of familiar L.A. landmarks, including the Chateau Marmont (the hotel where John Belushi died), the Capital Records building (the house that Frank [Sinatra] built), and the Sunset Strip.

“It’s like a giant velvet blanket covered in diamonds,” Sherrie says on looking over the L.A. landscape.

Other Observations at the Moviehouse

  • Won’t Back Down features the plot of another white teacher heroically infiltrating the ghetto to teach underparented kids the value of a good education. I think what we need is a movie about teacher facing a cold-hearted governmental system choking progress.
  • The upcoming Sparkle and Pitch Perfect seem to be riding on the coattails of Rock of Ages and American Idol as musical featurettes. It doesn’t seem like either will be anything groundbreaking. How about another The Song Remains the Same, Hollywood?

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