I Want To Rock because Tom Cruise is Wanted. Dead or Alive! Ok, I can go on with my 80’s hair band references, but let’s not. But don’t stop believing that Rock of Ages is anything but awesome. Well, the original Broadway show, the movie is based on is amazing. Not so sure about this clunky Hollywood adaptation. The movie is campy and silly but not enough. It is held together by an amazing performance by Tom Cruise.
I love the original Broadway cast album and recently saw the show. Immediately I had concerns that they needed to change a lot to make this shallow, empty material work as a movie. The problem is The Broadway Show has its tongue firmly planted in their cheek. Whereas it seems like the movie at times doesn’t know what it wants to be.
It is overly serious and dramatic where it does not need to be. It is also hampered by two leads – former TV stars Diego Boneta best known for a brief run on 90210 and newcomer Julianne Hough do not have enough charisma to carry off a major movie. Their romance feels static and stilted. Their singing is perfectly fine but their delivery doesn’t have the anger, power or passion that these songs require.
Again, I’m colored by the fact that I did see the Broadway show a few weeks ago and all of the performances there were incredible, so anything these two would probably pale in comparison. Catherine Zeta-Jones gives an interesting performance as a sexually repressed political wife. Her goal is to shut down the strip’s famous Bourbon club. She has a weirdly funny moment when she performs Hit Me With Your Best Shot, but with Michael Jackson Thriller Dance moves. Such a weird juxtaposition that was funny as heck.
Alec Baldwin is sometimes fun as the rock club’s grizzled owner but there are times when it feels like he’s not giving the role his all. Can’t help but think this is a paycheck for him. But there is one great moment between him and his loyal club manager played by Russell Brand. Believe me you will never think of the classic song I Can’t Fight This Feeling the same way. In the Broadway show this was one of the show’s standout moments and I was curious if they would do it in the movie and they did.
Even with these brief flashes of snark, the movie suffers because it does take itself way too seriously. The show above all else is a celebration of the the music and the movie misses this. Every time someone sings in this thing they look like they are in pain or angry. I’m not going to claim that Rock of Ages is a good movie. It isn’t, it is worth seeing – on video for Tom Cruise’s amazing performance.
Final Grade C