I never saw the play Rock of Ages on Broadway and now, after seeing the movie, I know why. It’s just not that great. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love 80s rock music a lot, but when you try to string together “Wanted Dead or Alive” and “Don’t Stop Believin'” and every other 80s song out there into a storyline, it’s just not going to work.
The premise, it’s 1987 on Sunset Strip in Hollywood, at a time when rock music was all the rage. The Bourbon Room, owned by Dennis Dupree (Alec Baldwin) and Lonny (Russell Brand), is a club where all the big rock bands come to play, and in some cases get their start. However, the club is losing money fast and needs a big night to get back on its feet. In the meantime, the mayor’s wife Patricia (Catherine Zeta-Jones) is on a quest to clean up Sunset Strip, by shutting down the Bourbon Room. She also seems to have this personal vendetta against Stacie Jaxx (Tom Cruise), the lead singer of Arsenal.
Meanwhile, Sherrie (Julianne Hough) is a small town girl from Oklahoma who travels to Los Angeles with dreams of becoming a singer. After stepping foot off the bus, she is robbed of her precious records. Cue, Drew (Diego Boneta) to the rescue, where he randomly offers her a job at the Bourbon Room. The two fall in love in a matter of a week, where she pushes him to get over his stage fright.
As Jaxx arrives at the Bourbon Room before the last show of Arsenal before he goes solo, he is interviewed by Rolling Stones reporter Constance (Malin Akerman). She asks him the hard questions, such as ‘what’s it like to be Stacie Jaxx?’ and ‘why does he let his manager run his life and essentially ruin his career?’ He is strangely attracted to this, even after she puts her tongue in his ear.
And then the plot ‘thickens’ as Constance leaves his room in a huff, Sherrie goes in to deliver the whiskey he requested. As Drew heads on stage, he catches a glimpse of Sherrie leaving Stacie’s room and thinks they slept together. The pair argue after he performs and break up. As he runs after her, Stacie’s manager Paul Gill (Paul Giamatti) offers Drew the life of fame and fortune. However, after a few weeks (or months – I’m not sure), Drew is turned into a rapping boy band and is not living out his dream. While Sherrie is working at a strip club and is pressured to become a stripper to make more money.
And THEN, they somehow run into each other randomly at the Hollywood sign again, where Drew gives Sherrie a tape of the song he wrote for her. But what eventually wins her back is when he buys back all of the records that were stolen from her. They all end up back at the Bourbon Room, where Drew is performing with his new band, which fails onstage. They win back the audience, and the attention of Stacie Jaxx, by singing the song Drew wrote – “Don’t Stop Believin.'” The club is saved, Stacie fires his scummy manager and Drew and Sherrie are famous and in love. Oh and Patricia and her bible never win their fight.
Rock of Ages is what happens when you try to make a musical out of 80s rock music. It took me a while to realize that this movie was a completely fictional time, in a world where Guns N Roses, Bon Jovi and Journey do not exist. It actually confused me at first, because they do name other rock bands. The only reason this movie works is because it’s all in good fun I guess and it has a great soundtrack. Cruise’s vocals are very impressive. The scene with him and Ackerman was hysterical. As was the scene with Baldwin and Brand singing “Can’t Fight This Feeling.” Actually Brand and Baldwin are really what makes the film, they pair play very well off of each other. Hough (who I really only know as the girl dating Ryan Seacrest) and Boneta are just a pair of kids who can’t act. They can sing though, so I get it. Mary J. Blige is thrown in as the strip club owner and poorly cast, but I enjoyed all the songs she sang. And Zeta-Jones is quite funny as a former groupie, now-turned bible thumper. I think she was wasted in the background though, because I know she can sing and dance because she killed it in Chicago.
If you want to be entertained by good 80s music and just as much 80s cheesiness, then by all means go ahead and see it. If you are like me and don’t want to waste $100 on a ticket for the Broadway play, then go ahead and see it. Everyone else, wait until cable.