Rock of Ages (12A)
It’s just about worth the wait to witness a shirtless Tom Cruise, as wasted ‘80s rocker Stacee Jaxx, wearing leather chaps and bedecked with lithe, sleeping babes. Guest star moments don’t come better than that.
Sadly Rock of Ages fails to improve on Cruise’s entrance. A peculiar, unwieldy and frequently tedious hybrid of TV’s Glee and innumerable past stompalong musicals, it throws away any semblance of surprise from the opening credits as a chorus of strangers break into song on a bus to Los Angeles.
From the outset this musical comedy romance ladles on the syrup, the corn and the cheese. It’s a giant cheeseburger for vegetarians in that it lacks anything resembling meat.
California, 1987. Oklahoma kid Sherrie (Julianne Hough) arrives in the City of Angels to pursue her ambition of being a singer. Almost immediately she meets Drew (Diego Boneta), a fresh-faced wannabe rock star and Stacee Jaxx, the tattooed real deal. The scene is set for shattered dreams, love and loss, manipulation and corruption, redemption and triumph.
Seen as a vehicle for familiar big-name actors to camp it up, Rock of Ages is a winner. Catherine Zeta-Jones, terrific as a politician’s fundamentalist wife determined to stamp out rock ‘n’ roll, performs a gutsy song-and-dance number in a church. Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand have fun as a bickering promoter and manager.
But it’s Cruise – he turns 50 on July 3 – who has the pulling power, and he disappoints. However he may not be to blame. Stacee is a hangover from the days of Spinal Tap, which effortlessly spoofed the heavy rock scene. Cruise, sporting a buff bod, looks the part but strangely lacks both conviction and that magical on-stage magnetism.
What emerge from this mess are some great one-liners, scenes and situations, such as the Sunset Boulevard sing-off between Zeta-Jones and Brand. (The reference is to Los Angeles geography rather than the Billy Wilder movie.)
Put simply, the denim, big hair, leather and solid soundtrack of soft rock anthems are not enough. And when the funniest character in the movie is an ape named Hey Man – think Clyde the Orang-utan in Every Which Way but Loose – one suspects that this is just a lazy tapestry courtesy of the four writers credited.