Rock of Ages Review
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In 2007, director Adam Shankman turned the Broadway hit Hairspray into a fun-filled musical movie romp—a feel-good, sing-along kind of summer movie that had audiences laughing and cheering and even dancing in the aisles. With his rock musical, Rock of Ages, however, he’s created a movie musical that’s more likely to have audiences scratching their heads than screaming for more.

Julianne Hough stars as Sherrie Christian, a sweet, innocent singer from Tulsa who packs up her favorite records and catches a bus to Hollywood, planning to make it big. There, on the Sunset Strip, she meets Drew (Diego Boneta), a fellow singer and barback at the infamous Bourbon Room, who helps her get a job as a waitress.

As Drew and Sherrie fall madly in love (in a matter of days, mind you), Bourbon Room owner Dennis (Alec Baldwin) and manager Lonny (Russell Brand) struggle to keep the doors open—especially now that the mayor’s wife, Patricia Whitmore (Catherine Zeta-Jones), is determined to clean up the Strip. The club’s survival is in the hands of erratic rocker Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise), who’s about to perform his final show with band Arsenal before going solo.

With its jumble of muddled storylines, its questionable sense of humor, and its perplexing cast, Rock of Ages is a musical mess that feels about as awkward and unnatural as watching your grandpa rock out to AC/DC.

Speaking of which, let’s start with Cruise. At nearly 50 years old, the aging actor may still be in good shape, but there’s nothing about him that’s believable as an iconic ‘80s rocker—from his strange strut to his silly sex-god act. Fortunately, though, he occasionally cranks his performance up to jumping-on-Oprah’s-couch levels of craziness, which at least makes him mildly entertaining.

The leading actors, meanwhile, couldn’t feel more out of place. With their small-town good looks and their wide-eyed earnestness, Hough and Boneta would probably be adorable in some other musical—like The Sound of Music or maybe even Shankman’s Hairspray. But they’re just not rock musical material. Boneta, especially, seems horribly miscast as Drew. Sure, he’s supposed to be a good guy, but he doesn’t look like the kind of guy who would ever be considered for a job at the coolest rock club in LA. Instead, he looks like the kind who would bus tables at some small-town diner and spend his weekends playing deep and meaningful acoustic ballads at open mic night at the record shop down the street.

The film is actually filled with moments that will make you laugh out loud—but it’s not the kind of easy-going laughter that comes from the enjoyment of a well-written joke. Instead, it’s the kind of awkward, uncomfortable chuckle that’s sparked by something so completely ridiculous that you just can’t help yourself. Most of the time, though, you won’t know whether you’re supposed to be laughing or if you should just be embarrassed for the writers.

Fortunately, though, you’ll always know where you stand with Russell Brand. While other cast members fluctuate between bland and bizarre in their performances (like Baldwin, whose comedic talent is almost entirely wasted on the down-and-out club owner), Brand is just Brand. He always seems to be dancing and giggling through each one of his scenes—and whenever he comes on-screen, you’ll know that it’s okay to laugh.

Of course, with its non-stop musical medleys, Rock of Ages is sure to take audiences on a trip down memory lane. But if you’re really in the mood for some good ‘80s music, you’d be better off hauling out your old mixtapes instead.

Blu-ray Review:
Rock of Ages is all about the music of the ‘80s—so the film’s Blu-ray release wisely skips things like deleted scenes and audio commentaries and focuses on the music.

Poison’s Bret Michaels hosts the disc’s two best features: Legends of the Sunset Strip and The Stories We Sing. Legends chats with the rockers—from bands like Quiet Riot, REO Speedwagon, and Foreigner—about the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle of the ‘80s. Here, the rock legends share their craziest stories about the fans, the women, and the excess of the ‘80s. Stories, meanwhile, focuses on the music, as the artists discuss the stories behind the songs—like “Sister Christian” and “Pour Some Sugar on Me”—closing with Def Leppard arriving on the Rock of Ages set to watch Tom Cruise perform their hit song.

Other features include Defining a Decade, a seven-part making-of feature (with no “Play All” option, incidentally), which goes behind the scenes with Julianne Hough and Diego Boneta to look at everything from the ‘80s styles and set design to the music and choreography. Or, if you want a little bit of music with a Rock of Ages twist, you can also check out the “Any Way You Want It” music video—or the feature that lets you skip to your favorite musical numbers in the movie.

Rock of Ages may not have been a box office hit, but, for fans of the film’s iconic rock soundtrack, the special features make up for it. After you finish watching the movie, don’t miss the rock ‘n’ roll extras, Legends of the Sunset Strip and The Stories We Sing.

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