It ain’t nothin’ but a good time.
Style your ’do and liberally apply that eyeliner, ‘cause director Adam Shankman’s Rock of Ages is a valiant ode not only to Chris D’Arienzo’s beloved musical, but to American pop culture. The combination of a brilliantly selected cast with passionate yet soothing voices and popular tunes that exemplify enjoyment results in an infectious spectacle sure to delight the whole family.
Immediately bursting into song, Sherrie Christian (Julianne Hough) reveals her unmistakable excitement in regards to escaping Oklahoma for Los Angeles (which is apparently Hollywood). ♪ She’s just a small town girl! ♫… Sorry about that. In L.A., she meets bartender of the Bourbon Room and rock star hopeful Drew Boley (Diego Boneta) and their romance blooms at light speed. Meanwhile, old-school superstar Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise) is introduced as a shade of the persona he once was. The icon yearns to discover the ultimate melody, but the lifestyle stereotypically associated with fame has given him some serious city miles. All of this occurs during a mayoral campaign aggressively fought by the unsurprisingly corrupt candidate Mike Whitmore (Bryan Cranston) and his predictably dishonest wife Patricia (Catherine Zeta-Jones), who both wish to rid the strip of the demonic “Rock ‘n Roll” for their own selfish reasons. Throw in a local gig to rejuvenate Jaxx’s career and you have the notes necessary to string these tales together with just enough screen time to incorporate a few betrayals, jabs at multiple genre fads, and some side-splitting faux-sex scenes.
Tom Cruise overwhelms with his stellar performance. Much like he did through his cameo in Tropic Thunder, the sometimes-eccentric leading man steals the show, proving once more that the actor is as versatile and talented as they come. While his rocker reincarnation accounted for countless laughs and even theater applause, the character also evokes significant sympathy. Cruise’s portrayal of a “doped-up” man entangled by “women and wine” provokes serious contemplation from the viewer regarding the difficulties coupled with stardom, but more importantly, the cost of not staying true to oneself.
The musical beckons viewers to recall youthful idealism, those years when the prospect of becoming a successful singer was tangible. D’Arienzo conveys a simple but admirable message through his young-at-heart heroes: Pursue dreams fearlessly, but never lose sight of who you are (because, as Jaxx would say, “you have to live in you”). Whether it’s maintaining a showroom to keep alive the beloved atmosphere associated with an iconic form of music or just finding the ideal someone with whom to spend your life, the music of the 80s inspired listeners of all ages just to be romantics, in both perspective and practice – to find fun and beat it into submission. Rock of Ages is that girl you met at the rock show five years ago. She glances at you with hopeful eyes and a shy smile as Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” fills the air between you. Are you man enough to whip out your six-string and walk over there?