Rock of Ages isn’t the worst movie I’ve ever seen, but it’s trying

I don’t often do this. Actually, I never do this. This isn’t a music or movie blog, this is a comic review blog. I’m used to talking about a different kind of professional artist, so forgive me if I sound off.

Yesterday was Father’s Day, and my dad has started this weird tradition of wanting to see awful movies. I mean, whatever the worst possible movie is, in the theaters, he’ll want to go see it on Father’s Day. Last year is was Green Lantern. This year, Rock of Ages.

The premise of the movie is pretty basic: Small-town girl moves to Los Angeles to pursue a singing career, realizes LA isn’t exactly the town of dreams she’d been promised, pursues a guy instead.

So, who is our main protagonist? If you guess Sherrie, the girl we start off the film with, you’re wrong! Actually, our main character would be Drew, a bartender at The Bourbon Room. After failing to stop some random guy from mugging her, Drew immediately begins to hit on Sherrie. Within five minutes, he manages to get her a job at the bar, and the next twenty minutes or so is a little montage of them falling in love. Oh, and of course Drew is a musician too, with stage fright, no less! So to boost his confidence, he and Sherrie go on a ‘music practice’ date at the Hollywood sign, and he sings her part of a song he wrote. I should probably mention now that there are no original songs in this movie. Every single one is some rock hit from the 80s, a bunch of which I was pretty torqued to see mangled. Sure, there were a couple of good covers, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Russel Brand doing a mash-up of We Built This City and We’re Not Gonna Take It was pretty awesome, but for the most part, it’s just an established country singer and a pop (?) singer belting out rock songs. Not very pretty.

Now to the antagonists. We’re treated to not one, but two ‘bad guys’ in this movie; Catherine Zeta-Jones, who plays the religious conservative wife of the mayor who’s trying to stamp out ‘Satanic’ rock and roll from the LA strip, and Paul Giamatti as Paul Gill, the spirit of every terrible music manager personified. Now, after watching the movie, I went home and looked up the stage show. And you know what? Neither of these people are the antagonists. Zeta-Jones’ character doesn’t even exist. Instead, the villains are a pair of German developers who want to clean up Sunset Strip by demolishing all the old buildings and clubs to put up more wholesome outlets for people to go. Actually, it seems like a lot of good things from the stage show were cut completely. The City Planner, a woman named Regina who is the main person fighting the developers in the play, doesn’t even appear. Actually, with the developer plotline cut in favor of poking fun at conservatives attempting to destroy rock and roll, there goes a good portion of the show. From what I can tell, the original show was about an old rock club that had hit hard times, and was depending on the concert of a very famous musician who had started there to pull them out of debt and prove that rock never dies in order to stick it to the man. I’d watch that movie. I’d watch the hell out of that movie. Anyway, the entire plot involving Catherine Zeta-Jones hinges on the eventual punchline about her actually being an ex-groupie of the rock star side character, who we’ll get to in a minute. A weak and obvious payoff that was set up earlier on in the film.

And hey, speaking of the big rock god, how could I forget Tom Cruise? I don’t like Tom Cruise. Never have. Can’t think of a movie with him in it that I’ve liked. He always has to be ‘the best’ in whatever movie he’s in. The best bartender, the best spy and now, in Rock of Ages, he is a rock god. Truthfully, I think he signed onto this movie to touch a lot of boobs. With the exception of the woman who runs the strip joint, and I’ll get to her in a minute, Stacee Jaxx cops a feel on every female character in the movie. Wow. Now, let’s go back to stage show Stacee. He’s still a rock star, the rock star, even, but he’s a minor character. He’s the stereotypical douchebag rocker, who has lost touch with reality and is more interested in drinking and banging chicks. I mean, this version kinda exists in the movie, except he also, for some reason, gets a redemption plot in the form of Constance Sack, a Rolling Stone reporter who does an interview with him. He fails to seduce her all the way, and so of course he falls in love with her. Her interview comes out more like an expose on his Evil Manager, who is then fired, and in the end, they end up married with Constance pregnant. Where is Stacee Jaxx at the end of the stage show? Uruguay. He fled there to avoid statutory rape charges after his career basically collapsed. So y’know, of course that had to be written out. I forgot to mention, Stacee Jaxx seems to be a bizarre amalgamation of Axl Rose and Michael Jackson, so if you do go and see the movie, go into it with that in mind. Johnny Depp drew inspiration from Keith Richards when he was playing Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Carribean. Tom Cruise was playing a drunken rocker in a cowboy hat with a baboon. I’d like to have someone else’s input on who exactly he based his character on, because I’m a little confused.

We’re going to talk about one more minor character, and that’s Justice Charlier. I don’t think she was ever referred to by name in the movie, but Justice is the woman who owns the strip club Sherrie ends up working at. I simultaneously love and hate this character. For one thing, in the film, she’s played by Mary J. Blige. How. How did she not read this script and go, “No, no I don’t think so.” Of all the characters in the movie, hers is the most unbelievable. She pulls Sherrie out of the rain on her I-can’t-find-a-job walk of shame and, instead of flat-out telling her that her only real money making job option right now is to become a stripper, she lets Sherrie come to this conclusion on her own by letting her work as a waitress in the club. I’m sorry, what planet was this taking place on again? Strip clubs don’t really work that way. But it’s all a set up to show Justice as a ‘matronly’ character. Again, no. The woman who owns and runs a strip club is most likely an ex-stripper herself, and therefor one of the most jaded people on the planet. Movie, please. You cannot set up a woman who has worked in the sex industry as long as Justice has as the film’s big compassionate role. And she has some of the worst lines slash advice ever. Have some actual lines from the movie, with peanut gallery commentary by me:
Justice: You didn’t come here looking for fame.
Me: Yes, yes she did actually. That’s exactly what she went to LA for.
Justice: You came here looking for love.
Me: No, that was incidental. You are incorrect, madame.
Justice Charlier, everybody. She doesn’t read people very well.

I’ve invested so much time and effort examining the minor characters, I almost forgot that the main characters existed. Sherrie and Drew would fit in better in Glee or High School Musical than a movie like Rock of Ages. Sherrie’s whole story seems to be focused around the loss of innocence. She’s from a small town in Oklahoma, and she moves to LA to become a famous singer. Immediately upon getting off the bus, she’s mugged, and loses all her records. But not her clothes, somehow, as she never once had to buy new ones throughout the movie. Anyway, over the course of the movie, despite leaving her home to pursue a singing career…she never actually pursues a singing career. She works in a bar. She gets a boyfriend. She works in a strip club. But does she ever go to any auditions? Try to join a band? Try to get Dennis to let her open for a band at the Bourbon Room? Nope. She does, however, sing in a fantasy segment in a used record store, sing to herself many many times, and encourage her love interest to chase his dreams. So, despite much of the movie focusing on her, I don’t consider Sherrie to be the main character. That pleasure goes to Drew, who goes from bartender to boy band member to legitimate rock god over the course of the movie. Way to go, Drew! However, he’s also a total tool. In classic wacky sitcom fashion, he thinks that Sherrie slept with Stacee Jaxx right before he opens for him, so he breaks up with her instead of hearing her side of the story. In truth, Sherrie had dropped a bottle of scotch, and somehow ripped her shirt, in Stacee’s dressing room, right after his aborted attempt to sleep with Candace. Drew dumping her is just the push Sherrie needs to go out and try and live her own dreams and…no, wait, that would be the logical thing to do. Instead, Sherrie quits her job, the only thing keeping her alive and off the streets, despite the fact that Drew is also quitting to go be a rock star and she would not have to see him there anymore. Mental capacity of a bag of rocks, I’m telling you. So she becomes a stripper, and the record company decides that rock is dead, so Drew becomes a member of a terrible boy band instead. In the end, Drew learns that Sherrie didn’t cheat on them and they get back together, even though that’s basically the worst thing Sherrie could do. I mean, how does this benefit her? Drew obviously has trust issues, if he thought that the woman he’d been spending every waking moment with would just ditch him to bang a rock star, then act like nothing’s gone down minutes later. In real life, these kinds of relationships don’t work out. Without trust, there is very little chance of love fully blooming, after all. And then they go on to be rock stars together! That’ll do wonders for that relationship paranoia Drew has! In the stage show, they don’t become rock stars, but they do move away from the city to get married and start a family. I like that ending better, personally. It may be a doomed relationship, but at least it’s a doomed relationship with a slightly longer lifespan.

And that’s Rock of Ages. There were a couple of truly enjoyable moments, such as Stacee Jaxx’s phone call to Rolling Stone, and Russel Brand’s character was fun to watch, but for the most part? It was dull. For every enjoyable scene, there were three awkward or entirely uncomfortable scenes. Tom Cruise is way, way too naked all the time. And the choice to have pop and country voices singing rock music? No. Bad. Go sit in the corner. So, if you’re at the movies this weekend, and you can’t decide what to watch? Go see the Avengers again. Or go see Brave! That comes out this Thursday, and it totally looks good. Pixar rarely disappoints. But don’t waste your time on this movie. Fun fact: This entire movie was filmed in Florida. The Hollywood sign? It’s located on top of a garbage dump in Pompano, maybe ten miles from my work. A lot of the club scenes were filmed at Revolution Live, a music venue that’s right across the street from a great restaurant/bar called Tarpon Bend. And the scenes of Sunset Strip itself? They redecorated a block in Miami. I know locations and settings can differ in movies but geez, they could have at least tried to film on the correct coast. I’m Touch of Grey, and I’ve spent entirely too much time and brainpower dissecting this hot mess of a film. See y’all Wednesday.

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2 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Antoinelle said,

    Well probably if you see Twilight or some mexican movies of “rock” you’re gonna see that there’re worst movies

  2. 2

    Francy said,

    OMG are you crazy!?? Rock of ages is the best movie in the whole world! Tom Cruise is the best and the story is simply epic! Think twice!- Said by an 11-year-old


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