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With: Julianne Hough, Diego Boneta, Russell Brand, Paul Giamatti, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Malin Akerman, Mary J. Blige, Alec Baldwin, Tom Cruise
Written by: Justin Theroux, Chris D'Arienzo, Allan Loeb, based on the musical by Chris D'Arienzo
Directed by: Adam Shankman
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sexual content, suggestive dancing, some heavy drinking, and language
Running Time: 123
Date: 06/13/2012

Rock of Ages (2012)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Rock is Dead

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Several years after Hairspray (2007), director Adam Shankman returns to an adaptation of a hit Broadway musical, and the results are just as self-conscious and flat. The first thing that strikes one about Rock of Ages is the collection of 1980s-era hair metal songs that comprise the soundtrack. It's surprising to realize just how effective those songs were, with their slick energy and their packaged bad-boy appeal. But unfortunately, the songs represented here in the movie are not the originals, and the effect is like being stuck at a cheesy wedding with a bad cover band.

Perhaps even more unfortunate, the main characters in this story are Drew Boley (Diego Boneta) and Sherrie Christian (Julianne Hough), who seem closer to Broadway stars than rock stars. Sherrie has just arrived in Los Angeles sometime in the 1980s and hopes to be a star. Drew works at a club and has a band and hopes to be a star. That's about it. Fortunately, there are some more interesting characters in this story. Dennis Dupree (Alec Baldwin) runs the club and has helped to launch the careers of a few metal bands. His saucy sidekick is Lonny (Russell Brand), and the two of them share a delightful number fairly late in the film.

Other roles are occupied by Bryan Cranston, Paul Giamatti as a sleazy manager with a giant cell phone, Malin Akerman as a Rolling Stone reporter, Will Forte, Mary J. Blige, and Catherine Zeta-Jones as an uptight, right-wing nut trying to get the club shut down. But the real scene-stealing role is Stacee Jaxx, played by Tom Cruise with the same kind of gusto and swagger he brought to his Oscar-nominated Magnolia performance. It's Cruise's takes on tunes like "Wanted Dead or Alive" and "Pour Some Sugar on Me" that give the film brief flickers of life.

One other moment, which combines "I Love Rock 'n' Roll" and "Juke Box Hero," has some cleverness, but otherwise, the songs are just tributes to another time; they don't recapture that time so much as re-create it, for show, as if behind glass. The feel is gone. Part of the film deals with the dying out of hair metal and the rise of boy bands. Believing he has lost everything, Drew sells his soul and signs up. The portrayals of that horrid genre here are pretty accurate, but not nearly as incendiary as they were 11 years ago in the underrated Josie and the Pussycats (2001).

In any case, Giamatti's character announces at this point that, "rock 'n' roll is dead." This movie proves it.

Not surprisingly, New Line's Blu-ray looks and sounds amazing. Unfortunately, it comes with an inexplicable extended cut, 13 minutes longer than the already excruciatingly long theatrical cut. It also has several featurettes about the music and re-creating the period, an "Any Way You Want It" music video, direct access to the movie's musical numbers, and other stuff. This combo pack also includes a DVD and access to a digital copy.
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