Rock of Ages is a song and dance extravaganza based around ’80s rock and hair metal, featuring songs by bands like Journey, Bon Jovi, Whitesnake and Twisted Sister. After Mamma Mia! proved that a decent soundtrack could make up for all sorts of mediocrity, Rock of Ages looked set to do the same.
Rock of Ages tells the story of Sherrie (Julianne Hough) who moves to Hollywood in search of stardom. There she meets Drew (Diego Boneta) a barhand who helps her get a job at The Bourbon Room, a famed rock club owned and run by Dennis (Alec Baldwin) and Lonny (Russell Brand). However, there’s a growing movement to shut the club down, led by Mayor’s wife Patricia Whitmore (Catherine Zeta-Jones). To cap it all, turns out the club’s in financial trouble too and only a performance from legendary Arsenal frontman Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise) can turn their fortunes around. The plot’s as shallow as anything, but that’s not really the point. Both Hough and Boneta make decent leads, if a little too clean-cut for a tale all about sweaty ’80s rock. Tom Cruise is entertaining as Stacee Jaxx and the rest of the cast attack their roles with varying degrees of irony.
Like many people, I have a soft spot for the odd ’80s rock track. Catch me in the right mood and blood alcohol level and I’ll be singing along to Journey on the jukebox like there’s no tomorrow. I think my biggest problem with the film is that most of the songs don’t have any oomph to them. The whole thing plays out like a mix between Glee and Guitar Hero, which is a shame. All the songs could have easily come from Glee, with auto-tuning abundant. Unfortunately, this is the sort of warbling shite we have been trained to think of as “good” thanks to The X Factor and the like. There’s no fucking soul to it. You may hear “Don’t Stop Believin’”, but all I hear is artificial, pitch-corrected crap. Just robots bleeping back and forth in measured, precise tones.
There is some fun to be found though. The big dance sequences and big cast numbers eventually charmed. Plus, it is damn funny seeing Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand sing REO Speedwagon’s “Can’t Fight This Feeling” to each other. God knows why Brand is doing a Brummie accent though. Highlight for me was Bryan Cranston who pops up every now and again, even getting spanked by his secretary to Pat Benatar’s “Hit Me With Your Best Shot”. I’m not entirely sure why Mary J. Blige’s Justice is in this film, but she seems to be the only one who doesn’t need robot vocal assistance and belts out the tunes like nobody’s business.
If you can get past the auto-tuned nonsense, you may like Rock of Ages. I wanted to like it a lot more than I ended up liking it, but that doesn’t mean its charms will be lost on everybody. It’s cheesy and silly, but it may win you over.