Now Playing: The Return of Butt Rock

I can’t picture any fan of ’80s butt rock – and I’m not talking about the retro geeks who listen to it today, but those original fans who listened to it back in the day – enjoying ‘Rock of Ages’. In fact, I’m pretty certain that the majority of the bands who have music featured in the movie won’t enjoy it either. Their days have passed and this is merely a paycheck for them. No, ‘Rock of Ages’ isn’t made for people who loved the music the first time around; it’s made for the ‘Glee’ generation, which is bringing it back in the noisiest, worst possible way. Believe me when I tell you that it’s freaking awful.

The best thing about my viewing experience of ‘Rock of Ages’ was the knowledge that I will never have to sit through this pointless mess ever again. Imagine a mix of the ‘Footloose‘ remake and ‘Burlesque‘. That’s what you get with ‘Rock of Ages’. If you saw either of those movies, then you know how bad they were. Combine the plodding of both you get a double dose of anxiety-inducing pain. If Bruce Banner was forced to watch ‘Rock of Ages’, he’d turn into the Hulk within four minutes. That’s how internally damaging ‘Rock of Ages’ is.

Believe it or not, terrible dancer-trying-to-be-actress Julianne Hough plays the lead character in this jumbled and unfocused ensemble story. How she’s gotten leading roles is beyond me. Sherrie (Hough) is “just a small town girl living in a lonely world [who] took the midnight [bus] going [to L.A.].” If you think I’m being an ass and implying these lyrics on my own, you’re wrong. The movie literally does this. I’m just quoting. The moment she gets off the bus, her record collection is stolen and she’s taken in by a “city boy born and raised in [who gives a shit?] [who, long ago] took the midnight [bus also] going [to L.A.].” He gets her a job at a rock club and the two fall in love after a day or two. Close Act One.

Act Two is all about a failing rock club owned by Alec Baldwin and run by Russell Brand. This is where Sherrie and Pretty Boy work. To get the club back on its feet, they bring in legendary Axl Rose rip-off Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise) for his final show before going solo. This segment of the movie almost entirely ditches the lovers (thank heaven!) and focuses of Cruise’s zany character. I’m an unapologetic Tom Cruise fan, but I felt completely embarrassed watching him in this trainwreck.

The third act is where the movie completely derails. Any interest that you may have had goes out the window. Every character does something stupid, and a stagnant, forced storyline involving a religious political group that tries to shut down the club surfaces just enough to cause the most contrived amount of conflict. Oh yeah, there’s a boy band stuffed into the story too.

Hough is incapable of acting, so she has an excuse for being awful here, but the rest of the seasoned cast doesn’t have that excuse. The majority of them phone in their performances: Alec Baldwin, Russell Brand, Bryan Cranston (whom I always love) and Paul Giamatti. Despite not liking Tom Cruise’s character, he plays it with conviction. Plus, it’s pretty cool to see him sing. Mary J. Blige is a cardboard cut-out, as is Hough’s love interest, no-name young actor Diego Boneta. A quick surprise cameo by Eli Roth is quite entertaining, but Malin Akerman and Catherine Zeta-Jones are too good for the movie they’re in.

In ‘Almost Famous‘, Lester Bangs explains to young William Miller how rock (at the time in which the movie is set, the ’70s) was dead. Given that Bangs was correct, how much more dead was rock in the mid-’80s? Butt rock is known as “butt rock” for a reason. If you’re going to title a movie ‘Rock of Ages’, then it better contain rock from all the ages, not just a short-lived period of music that quickly burned out and only recently found a resurgence due to the ridiculous television series ‘Glee‘. Butt rock isn’t the worst music out there, but power ballads don’t deserve to don the “rock” title. I only despise a few of the many tracks that lie within ‘Rock of Ages’, but even many of the ones that I love have no purpose being in this movie. Songs are crammed-in just to cram them in – often times featuring lyrics that couldn’t be farther from the movie’s content.

Let me reiterate one point: ‘Rock of Ages’ is basically a blend of the ‘Footloose’ remake and ‘Burlesque’. Need I really say more?

Rating: ½☆☆☆☆


    • A critic friend who saw both version says that the movie is tame compared to the Broadway show, that they alter a good dichotomy between several characters just to sweeten it up for mainstream movie-going audiences.

      • The stage show started in Los Angeles, with comedian Chris Harwick (now host of Web Soup and The Talking Dead) in the Stacee Jaxx role. There’s quite some distance between that and Tom Cruise, I’d imagine.

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