September 2, 2014
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Rock of Ages
Don Fowler
4 stars
Reviewer's Rating:
“Rock of Ages” stars Tom Cruise and Alec Baldwin.

* * * ½ (Joyce)

(Rock musical brought to big screen)

The dazzling rock musical that played at PPAC last year is brought to the big screen with the great rock songs of the ’80s.

Adam Shankman, who successfully brought "Hairspray" to the movie screen, succeeds big time with the splashy singing and dancing that never slows down for two hours.

Unusual casting features Tom Cruise as Stacee Jaxx, the drunken, sex-craved, spaceshot of a rock idol, and Alec Baldwin as the middle-aged rock club owner who is dedicated to keeping rock alive as the younger crowd turns to rap and boy bands.

The simple, familiar story takes place in 1987. We first meet Sherrie (Julianne Hough) on a bus from Oklahoma to Hollywood, singing away with stars in her eyes. Everyone on the bus joins in the song, setting the stage for this unique musical. Sherrie meets Drew (Diego Boneta), another starry-eyed hopeful, who is a gofer at Baldwin's Bourbon Room. He helps her get a waitress job, and the two young, naive wannabes immediately fall in love.

Enter Stacee Jaxx and his slick manager (Paul Giamatti), set to perform a benefit to keep the dying club open. The mayor's wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones), with a dark secret in her past, is determined to shut the "sinful" club down and help her husband turn the strip into a mega-hotel complex.

If the plot sounds familiar, it is. But what the writers do with it is very unique.

You should remember a lot of the great songs of the ’80s, like "I Love Rock and Roll,” "Hit Me With Your Best Shot,” "Any Way You Want It" and "We Built This City on Rock and Roll,” to name but a few. My kids had all the albums by the biggest bands of the era, like AC/DC. If you are familiar with the music, you'll love this movie even more.

It stays fairly close to the stage production, adding a monkey to the mayhem and opening up the production numbers to the Hollywood streets. Shankman cleverly involves many singers, switching scenes with different people interpreting the lyrics in different ways. Baldwin and Russell Brand have one of the funniest moments, giving new meaning to a popular love song.

All does not go well for the young lovers, as they part over a misunderstanding of Sherrie's relationship with Stacee, but hey, this is a Broadway musical and you know everything will turn out fine in the end.

Joyce is not a big Tom Cruise fan, but I thought he was terrific as Jaxx. What looks like strange casting choices works. And if you find yourself singing along to "We're Not Gonna Take It,” as sports fans now do when their team is behind, that's OK.

Rated PG-13, but very close to an R, with some steamy sexual scenes.


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