I am a sucker for musicals. I loved “The Sound of Music” as a kid. I loved “Moulin Rouge” as an adult. I even enjoyed “Mamma Mia,” despite poor Pierce Brosnan’s pleading for a merciful ending to his version of “SOS.”
“Rock of Ages” is no exception. It’s a high-energy, toe-tapping good time with sassy mash-ups from the hair bands of the ’80s.
But here’s the real shocker:
Tom Cruise plays this smoldering rock god, Stacee Jaxx, like he’s been doing it his whole life — and doing it brilliantly. Love him or hate him, the guy delivers an exceptional performance as a self-absorbed, drug-addled, sex-crazed, rock ’n’ roll icon who has real-life rockers calling him bad names. That’s how good he is in this.
But he’s just part of the film’s window dressing.
This is the story (such as it is) about a talented young singer, Sherrie Christian (Julianne Hough), who comes to Hollywood to seek fame and fortune in the late ’80s.
She meets a young bartender at the Bourbon Room on Sunset Strip who is also interested in a musical career. Drew (Diego Boneta) gets her a job waiting tables at the club run by Dennis Dupree (Alec Baldwin) and his business partner, Lonny (Russell Brand).
Just think of “Burlesque” with less angst and more music. In fact, these people break out into song about every few minutes, which doesn’t leave much time for storytelling, but I have a feeling that’s a good thing.
Stacee Jaxx is slated to appear at the Bourbon Room for a farewell concert with his band before he embarks on a solo career. His manager (Paul Giamatti) knows his aging star is on the decline, but wants to ride that pony as long as he can. He will hear the newcomer Drew sing and hope to sign him to appear in the latest new craze — boy bands. Ugh.
It’s here that Sherrie and Drew will part ways — because Drew believes Sherrie slept with Stacee Jaxx, mainly because ... who hasn’t?
In a refreshing twist, Catherine Zeta-Jones shows up as a Christian crusader against rock debauchery with a secret of her own.
The only slight drawback is that Julianne Hough has a softer, country-singer voice that doesn’t have the power to belt out these heavy ’80s tunes. But she does her best to stay up with the rest (although Mary J. Blige blows her away in one particular song).
That aside, “Rock of Ages” is one of the more entertaining movies I’ve seen this year. It’s fun, and a bit naughty, but you’ll leave the theater feeling like you just had a really good time. And there’s nothing wrong with that, right?