|Image: Warner Bros.|
Does the idea of a jukebox musical put you on edge? If so, it’s probably for the best that you give Rock of Ages a miss. However, if you’re a fan of Glee or Mamma Mia, it’s probably safe to say that you’ll enjoy the hell out of this star-studded sing-along.
Sherrie Christian (Julianne Hough) arrives in LA with a song in her heart and a dream of…well, singing. She quickly finds a job as a waitress at legendary rock bar The Bourbon thanks to the obliging and handsome waiter Drew (Diego Boneta), who also dreams of being a rock star. Bourbon owner Dennis (Alec Baldwin) thinks his ship has come in when he books unpredictable burning-out rock icon Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise) to play, but will Stacee’s appearance throw a spanner in everyone’s works?
There is a huge audience for this kind of film, and while it’s a little too easy to use Glee and Mamma Mia as a point of comparison, it’s appropriate. The point of the story is to set up the songs, it’s totally, unabashedly cheesy, and it’s going to entertain a lot of people. Rock of Ages plants its flag in the ground right from the start as random Greyhound coach passengers take lines in Sherrie’s rendition of Sister Christian and it doesn’t get any less on-the-nose. Your enjoyment of Rock of Ages depends on your ability to go with it and enjoy quite how brazenly treacly it is.
Thankfully there are some rewards for those of us not overly enamoured of open-hearted, passionate sing-alongs of 80s rock. Baldwin has so much fun with his role as the boozy, denim-clad bar owner that he makes up for vast portions of the film being tedious and he has great chemistry with Russell Brand, who plays his right-hand man. Paul Giamatti is enjoyably slimy as Stacee’s manager who’s in it for himself and Malin Ackerman clearly enjoys having the bulk of the film’s filthier moments as the Rolling Stone journalist who has a thing for Stacee.
And what about Cruise? Well, he’s certainly committed. His performance has a wired intensity that works well for a while but grows increasingly predictable. But predictability is what this film delivers, from the deathly dull leads (he wants to be a singer, she wants respect) to the inevitability of the film’s closing with Don’t Stop Believing. At just over two hours, there will be plenty of “it goes on and on and on” jokes.
But it is funnier than you might think. The cast give it their all and are clearly enjoying themselves, while the script (from Chris D’Arenzio, Allan Loeb, and Justin Theroux) has a few decent jokes. If you’re not totally dead-set against jukebox musicals, there’s some fun to be had.
Does an 80s rock jukebox musical appeal? Yes? Then you’ll probably enjoy it. If not, probably best to give it a miss, although Baldwin is hilarious.