Rock of Ages has a tagline that fits as a description for a movie review of the film as well: Nothin' but a good time. That’s honestly all the movie is, nothing earth-shattering. And nothing that will make you think about it long after the credits roll. But, during those two hours in the dark, audiences are treated to a balls-to-the-wall journey of rock and roll, circa 1987.
Alec Baldwin portrays the owner of a Whisky-A-Go-Go-type club called the Bourbon Room. He is in dire straights and in need of a show that will put his establishment back on the map. Enter a mega rock star who has a long history with the Bourbon, Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise). Jaxx is the biggest rock and roller in the world and his farewell performance with his band is set to be at the club where they recorded their live album.
Cruise enters the film where it feels like it's a little too late, but when he does, he rocks it like a hurricane. The reason for the later arrival of the superstar is the film’s need to introduce its aspiring rockers/lovebirds: Julianne Hough and Diego Boneta.
Boneta’s Drew is a singer-guitarist with a dream of having his songs become sensations. Hough’s Sherrie is literally right off the bus from the Midwest and shares Drew’s aspirations. They meet, fall in love and have a misunderstanding that splits them apart… for now. But, this is drastically different than what happened in the Broadway production and we think the film suffers a tad for it. The Stacee Jaxx character is much smaller in the musical and the increased involvement is fine because we get more killer Cruise, but this complicates things throughout the film, especially the young lovers' romance.
Also slightly different from the stage play is the fight for the moral high ground, embodied onscreen by Catherine Zeta-Jones. Although her and Russell Brand’s back and forth on the mash-up of We Built This City and We’re Not Going to Take It is the film’s musical highlight, Zeta-Jones’ religious zealot feels like an added layer that we did not particularly need. Don’t get me wrong though, she is stellar in the part and as she showed in Chicago, the actress knows how to belt out a song.
The two highlights of the Adam Shankman (Hairspray) directed film is Cruise, as we mentioned, and Mary J. Blige. The R&B sensation portrays Justice, a strip club owner who winds up serving as a maternal influence to Hough’s Sherrie. The cast can sing, yet when Blige belts out Pat Benatar’s Shadows of the Night or Journey’s Any Way You Want It, audiences immediately realize who the real singer is here.
As we said, Rock of Ages is an all-out good time at the movies. But, once it’s over, will you remember it the same way as some other musicals (like Zeta-Jones’ Chicago) over a decade later? Probably not… yet while you are in the theater, be prepared to rock.