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Tom Cruise, Julianne Hough Have Fun in ‘Rock of Ages’

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HollywoodChicago.com Oscarman rating: 3.5/5.0
Rating: 3.5/5.0

CHICAGO – Although the jukebox musical needs an available pasture to be put out onto, the new film “Rock of Ages” – based on the Broadway stage play – improves on that genre by having a little fun and lots of tongue-in-cheek. Tom Cruise, Julianne Hough, Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand rock the cashbox.

Although displaying some very soft moments, the overall effect of the film musical is nostalgia – it’s loaded with 1980s hair band jukebox hits – and seeing familiar stars done up as rockers or uptight anti-rock protesters. Tom Cruise is a stand-out, portraying the pop god Stacee Jaxx as a blissed out, be-wigged burn out. Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand, although making an unlikely movie team, manage also to provide some comic relief. Director Adam Shankman (“Hairspray”) keeps the musical in motion, and uses an expansive scenic atmosphere to enliven a standard rock and roll adventure.

The year is 1987, and small town girl Sherrie (Julianne Hough) arrives in Los Angeles to make her way in the music business. She runs into Drew (Diego Boneta), a busboy at an legendary rock club on the Sunset Strip called The Bourbon Room. The club is owned by Dennis (Alec Baldwin), who keeps his floor manager Lonny (Russell Brand) close at hand. They are anticipating that rocker Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise) will play the club one last time with his band Arsenal, and Dennis will be able to pay off a big tax bill.

Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand’
Alec Baldwin (Dennis) and Russell Brand (Lonny) in ‘Rock of Ages’
Photo credit: David James for Warner Bros. Pictures

It’s also a campaign year, and Los Angeles Mayor Whitman (Bryan Cranston) decides to make the decadence of The Bourbon Room a campaign issue, spurred by his uptight wife Patricia (Catherine Zeta-Jones). They want to close it, and gather protesters outside the venue. In the meantime, Stacee Jaxx is verbally wrestling with a Rolling Stone magazine interviewer named Constance (Malin Ackerman) and Drew is trying to fend off Jaxx’s manager Paul (Paul Giamatti), who wants to change his image from rock to boy band. Will anyone get to the concert on time?

Like a shiny new penny, the movies glimmers but offers little underlying value. It is a jukebox musical after all, there isn’t much really going on between getting to the familiar and soaring songs. Great pop music will always raise the hairs on the neck, and this movie is full of hits, including “Sister Christian,” “Wanted Dead or Alive,” “Pour Some Sugar on Me,” “Here I Go Again” and “Rock You Like a Hurricane,” among others. The choreography and music video-type style are well handled by director Shankman, and it’s just a lot of fun, basically.

Tom Cruise always has something up his sleeve when he creates a character beyond his typical movie persona, and his Stacee Jaxx is memorable. The 49 year-old movie star gives it a wicked spin, can you imagine Paul Newman playing a similar role at the same age? He creates a rocker of mystery, in the mode of Jim Morrison, and spouts some off-the-wall spiritualistic gobbledegook. It’s a performance that forces attention, no matter what you think of Tom Cruise.

One of the other standouts is Malin Ackerman, a somewhat unknown Swedish model and actress, who displays powerful chemistry opposite Cruise as the Rolling Stone scribe. There is something about how she uses the screen, or how she is used in the film, but there was a star-is-born quality to the performance. Julianne Hough and Diego Boneta are serviceable as the young rock lovers, but it goes back to the penny analogy. If only Ackerman and Hough could have switched roles.

Malin Ackerman and Tom Cruise’
Malin Ackerman (Constance) and Tom Cruise (Stacee Jaxx) in ‘Rock of Ages’
Photo credit: David James for Warner Bros. Pictures

Catherine Zeta-Jones, making her first mainstream film appearance in three years, picked a strange role to get back on stage. She does a ironic choreographed sequence to the song “Hit Me With Your Best Shot,” portraying the buttoned-up matron protesting the rock. Her close-ups in that number have a maniacal quality to them that are unsettling.

So lots to see and lots to interact with in “Rock of Ages,” especially if you’re the type to sing along (make sure it’s inaudible). It’s great, mindless summer entertainment, a prime time for remembering…and dismembering..rock and roll dreams.

“Rock of Ages” opens everywhere on June 15, 2012. The film features Tom Cruise, Julianne Hough, Russell Brand, Alec Baldwin, Bryan Cranston, Malin Ackerman, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Paul Giamatti. Screenplay by Justin Theroux, Chris D’Arienzo and Alan Loeb. Directed by Adam Shankman. Rated “PG-13”

HollywoodChicago.com senior staff writer Patrick McDonald

By PATRICK McDONALD
Senior Staff Writer
HollywoodChicago.com
pat@hollywoodchicago.com

© 2012 Patrick McDonald, HollywoodChicago.com

ziggy one of the best's picture

Rock of ages

Well I’m not a fan of cruise but he was pretty good in this film but most of all I like the music

Manny be down's picture

Rock of Ages

By far one of jis best work of art I enjoy the great actors as well as the music

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