Sunday 17 June 2012

Rock of Ages (2012) - Adam Shankman

"Well it can't be any worse than the show...can it?" I claimed entering the cinema.

How wrong I was.

The stadium anthems that form the backbone of Rock of Ages are meant to be heard live and at least the show features some decent vocal performances.  Here, we must suffer autotune and dreadful miming, lacking the visceral atmosphere of being there at a rock gig that, at its best, the show delivers. 

Remember the MGM musicals, the Golden Age of Hollywood?  Well Rock of Ages sh*ts all over it.  The sophistication and glamour of classical cinema is switched for the sex and alcohol fuelled glam-rock of the 1980s, singing Journey songs by the Hollywood sign.  Light-hearted amusement and coy flirtation is switched for sleaze and tongue-in-cheek irony.  But where the show often breaks the fourth wall to poke fun at itself, the film is a juvenile embarrassment, seguing into song with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer.  And I don't think I've seen a film rely so heavily on montage.

As Stacee Jaxx, Tom Cruise is simply living out a boyhood fantasy.  He's clearly enjoying himself, but for the audience his nonsensical character is cringe-worthy.  Elsewhere, Russell Brand gives a lazy performance as himself, incapable of keeping up a consistent accent, whilst Alec Baldwin offers...very little.  Julianne Hough (Sherrie) and Diego Boneta (Drew) are evidently talented performers, but here they're stifled by autotune.

The film follows the same story as the show but with a few tweaks, such as Catherine Zeta Jones as uptight Mayor's wife Patricia Whitmore, taking the place of the show's German villain.  It's out of place, though, for an anti-rock churchwoman to sing Pat Benetar's classic Hit Me With Your Best Shot complete with provocative routine.  Her character attempts to emphasise a divide between the church and rock music, representing old and new values.  Yet it's hardly the black-white divide displayed in Shankman's previous film Hairspray, and the light bondage spanking scene between the Mayor and his mistress with rosary beads is a step too far.  Just as Hairspray successfully recreates 1950s deep-south America, Rock of Ages recreates 1980s LA with all the camp glitz you'd expect, but it's ultimately a shallow representation.

Lastly, Rock of Ages has a problem with its audience.  Where young people will be attracted to the star cast and the premise, the music is from (to them) a bygone era.  Indeed, the film pokes fun at the music of today.  On the other hand, an older audience may relish the chance to relive their youth, but they'll be put off by the juvenile script and humour.

So who is this film for?  Frankly, it's for nobody.  Rock of Ages is an abomination on celluloid that no one should have to suffer.