Movie Review: Rock of Ages

By Stephen Rebello

Despite the sky high budget and hairdos, the big-screen version of the jukebox Broadway musical hit Rock of Ages dissapoints.

Director: Adam Shankman

MPAA Rating: PG-13 Studio: Material Pictures

Hair metal never had it so bad as in Rock of Ages. Kitschy, punishingly long and often hilariously inane, this thing is a big-screen version of the jukebox Broadway musical hit that has been dubbed “Mamma Mia for metalheads.” It’s satirically directed by Adam Shankman (Hairspray) as a hyperkinetic, neon garish, wall-to-wall singing mishmash that’s a lot closer to Coyote Ugly and Burlesque than it is Velvet Goldmine. Set circa 1987 and focusing on the rock icons, young hopefuls, scenesters and moral reformers who once clogged L.A.’s Sunset Strip, the movie, adapted by screenwriters Justin Theroux, Chris D’Arienzo and Allan Loeb, plays like a more than two-hour recreation of very bad MTV videos. 

It’s nominally about a sweet small-town girl (Julianne Hough with a Farrah hairdo, a rocking bod and a pinched, nasal voice) eager to make it big but winding up waitressing at a legendary rock club that is being picketed and threatened with closure by Bible-thumping reformers led by Catherine Zeta-Jones, who plays it in high camp. Tipper Gore style.  Really, though, Rock of Ages is an excuse to wallow in ‘80s nostalgia, complete with mile-high hairdos, a boy band, drugginess, and songs by REO Speedwagon, Twisted Sister, Pat Benatar, Poison, Journey, Def Leppard, Guns N’ Roses, Foreigner and more, some of which sound a hell of a lot better in memory than they do resurrected for the American Idol/Glee generation. Except for some sizzling vocals by Mary J. Blige, the power ballads and rockers are karaoke’d by stars Tom Cruise (giving it his tiresome, sexless all as an Axl Rose type in leather chaps and jeweled codpiece), Russell Brand, Zeta-Jones, Alec Baldwin, Paul Giamatti, Hough, Malin Akerman, Diego Boneta, Bryan Cranston and more. 

Presumably, the auto-tune budget — let alone the money spent on wigs — was sky high.  We hope the cast and crew at least had more fun than the audience does. 


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