'Rock of Ages' doesn't really rock
Published: Wednesday, July 11, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, July 11, 2012 21:07
The 1980s were a weird time, even by today’s standards. It was a decade in transition: Hip-hop and rap were emerging, the Soviets began lifting the Iron Curtain, and the world supplies of both hairspray and cocaine were nearly exhausted. “Rock of Ages” ignores all those things and focuses on the dream of every teenager in the era of hair metal: making it big in Hollywood.
“Ages” depicts the intertwining paths of several people in the L.A. music scene in 1987, focusing on aspiring singers and lovebirds Drew (Diego Boneta) and Sherri (Julianne Hough). The couple works at the Bourbon Room, owned by Dennis (Alec Baldwin), which is struggling against moral crusader Patricia Whitmore (Catherine Zeta-Jones) as she gathers a following of concerned parents to protest rock superstar Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise), who in this movie’s universe apparently sang every hard rock track post-Woodstock.
If nothing else can be said of the film, let this stand: it’s immersive. The Sunset Strip (a street in Southern California) of “Ages” is full-fleshed out, feeling like a 360 degree world, despite the fact that it’s only one road.
The Bourbon Room in particular (seemingly a mash-up of Whiskey a Go Go and the Viper Room) feels like a real building, bristling with business when it’s open and a complex maze of rooms, stairs, and corridors when the patrons have gone. Unfortunately, none of the characters are as three-dimensional as their surroundings.
Diego Boneta just needs to head back to acting school. Considering this is his first major role, you might consider it forgivable, but it’s kind of dependent on the viewer. He doesn’t seem to have a wide vocal range, but he’s got some talent, so it’s not like they got a guy with no redeeming qualities.
Alec Baldwin really seems like he’s phoning it in and collecting a paycheck. Julianne Hough has been in enough stuff that she shouldn’t be just fluff. She should stick to dancing. Everyone else is just kind of there, although Catherine Zeta-Jones brings some fiery passion.
Tom Cruise’s character is actually pretty interesting from the first time his name is mentioned to about the fifteen-minute mark of his screen time. Before he even appears, he’s built up as a possibly insane, unpredictable, mystery figure.
He lives up to just that, until his “bad boy persona” is peeled back, and explanation and motivation is given for his course in life. This is one case where fleshing-out the character doesn’t work, because the figure, and the ideas he represents, is much better as an enigma, like Anton Chigurh or Wolverine.
“Rock of Ages” isn’t terrible, just boring. It has a lot of wasted potential, and shoots itself in the foot. One of the messages is about not selling out (like singing pop to get famous, when you’re a Rocker at heart), but considering almost all of the songs performed are Top 40 hits, the line between “It’s about the music, man” and “I want to be famous” gets pretty blurry, and not in an intentional way. If you grew up in the 80s (granted, not most people reading this), there could be a strong nostalgia factor involved, but otherwise the movie is rather “meh.”