I truly believe that we should make space in our hearts to appreciate pure, campy, droll cinema. The kind of self-mocking, self-aware movie that winks at itself and what it’s trying to do no matter how absurd it is because all it wants to do is have fun and give an entertaining show. And I also believe that somewhere buried underneath Rock of Age‘s 80’s glam rock mash-ups, never ending pennis innuendos and overused romantic musical tropes is that movie. But just like a washed-out rock star, it ended up being too drugged up to give us a performance that’s worth our money.
I didn’t expect anything much from the movie but a good time, the kind of spirited, infectious joy that musicals usually possess. But several things got in the way. First is the very inefficient storytelling that tried to do too many things all at once. On one hand, its about a country girl named Sherri (Julianna Hough) moving from the backwaters of Tulsa, Oklahoma to Los Angeles to fulfill her dream of becoming a singer. Then she meets Drew (Diego Boneta), who is also climbing the ranks in the local rock scene with his own band. They both work at The Bourbon Club, an event space fighting to maintain its relevance in a post-rock era. We also encounter Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise), a troubled rock star whose glory days are far behind him who is being publicly attacked by the WASP-y, conservative wife of the mayor (Catherine Zeta Jones). And somewhere thrown in there is Mary J. Blige running a strip joint.
It really is all convoluted and the only connective tissue is the rock music that they break into. Other than that, it is a gigantic mess. I haven’t seen the source material for the movie (but I will get to watch it two weeks from now) so I don’t know the amount of blame that should be appropriated to Adam Shankman, but it feels like he could have been more streamlined. Why, for example, include Catherine Zeta Jones’ character when it wasn’t in the original Broadway musical? At times it feels like Shankman and Mia Michaels, both judges of So You Think You Can Dance, had too much fun on set.
I’m not going to criticize the over-the-top choreography and production values because that’s the spirit of the movie. If Shankman wants Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand to sing “I Can’t Fight This Feeling Anymore” to each other while spinning, then that’s completely fine. Hey, its funny, brainless humor that makes me laugh. But once the music stops and we go back to the narrative that we’ve all seen before, the movie is drained of all the life it has. We’ve all seen the story of the aspiring singer burning too bright and too fast and the star-crossed lovers that because of one thing or another fall in love, fall out of love, and fall in love again. It’s all recycled, unimaginative drivel.
And please for the love of god Hollywood, The Hangover is not a good measure for what makes a good comedy. Monkeys are not that funny. Stop using them for cheap laughs.