DIR: Adam Shankman • WRI: Allan Loeb, Justin Theroux • PRO: Adam Shankman, Tobey Maguire, Matt Weaver • DOP: Bojan Bazelli • ED: Emma Hickox • DES: Jon Hutman • Cast: Tom Cruise, Alec Baldwin, Russel Brand, Julianne Hough, Diego Boneta, Malin Akerman, Bryan Cranston, Catherine Zeta-Jones
Musicals are the epitome of cinematic marmite. You either love them or you hate them. Rock of Ages is no different. The film tells the story of Sherrie (Julianne Hough) and Drew (Diego Boneta) and their romance during the ‘hair metal’ era of 1980s Los Angeles. Sherrie and Diego work at the Bourbon Room. The owners, Dennis (Alec Baldwin) and Lonny (Russell Brand) are about to put on the final concert of Arsenal, a heavy metal band that’s fronted by a mercurial singer, Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise). It’s here that Drew gets his big break and begins the story of the film. Concurrent to this, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Bryan Cranston – who play a mayoral couple looking to wipe heavy metal from the streets of Los Angeles – are plotting to shut down the Bourbon Room and run them out of business.
As mentioned earlier, musicals are either in your taste or they aren’t. It’s very difficult for someone that has a passing interest in the genre to watch this film, given that they break into song every five seconds. Rock of Ages is a cheesy romp and it makes no excuses for it. Most of the songs are based in that era, including Def Leppard’s ‘Pour Some Sugar (On Me)’ and Bon Jovi’s ‘Dead Or Alive’ as well as some originals, too. It’s clear from watching the film that the cast were thoroughly enjoying their time on screen. Tom Cruise’s singing voice is surprisingly good and Russell Brand is playing a role he’s lived for the past thirty-odd years.
The young couple at the centre of the film are schmaltzy and corny beyond belief. However, the film itself is not to be taken seriously therefore this can be easily forgiven. Adam Shankman’s direction is straight-forward and to the point. Having worked on musicals prior to this, Hairspray being one of them, it’s clear he has a talent for the genre and it’s evident throughout. The plot and screenplay are all very much rudimentary and simply serve to bridge the huge musical set-pieces together. The film is very much a faithful adaptation of the musical and fans of it will not be disappointed. Rock of Ages is enjoyable and a tongue-in-cheek ode to a musical fad that’s best left in the history books. If musicals work no charm on you, however, you’ll find Rock of Ages a grating experience.