Adam Shankman’s new film/musical Rock of Ages tells the story of a small town girl Sherrie (Julianne Hough) and a city boy Drew (Diego Boneta), whose separate journeys to chase their dreams of stardom bring them together on the Sunset Strip. At first it all seems like paradise to Sherrie as sparks fly between her and Drew and he gets her a job at the infamous rock ‘n’ roll bar, The Bourbon Room. On the flip side, rock legend Stacee Jax (Tom Cruise) is at the top of his game and just about to leave his glam rock band, Arsenal, to go solo which could potentially be the rock god’s undoing. Will Sherrie and Drew ever make it to the top? Will Stacee stay at the top? Does he want to?
Answers to these and other questions are inside this not so typical musical — Rock of Ages is very racy indeed! Unlike any of Cruise’s characters before, his latest creation Stacee is introduced onto the screen via his barely concealed crotch region sporting a very fetching gold animal head with its tongue out, followed closely by a shot of his barely covered buttocks. Stacee is the man of the moment and women fall at his feet (literally) wherever he goes. But Rock of Ages is not just all about the frequent bedroom antics of Stacee Jax, it’s ultimately a tale of love between Sherrie and Drew (and between some unexpected characters too).
It’s also about travelling back in time to party hearty in the 80’s! For fans of that decade’s look, Rock of Ages will be like fashion porn to you. There are plenty of shoulder pads, denim, big hair, leopard print, crop tops and fur to tease the eyes (and that is just what the men are wearing!). Thankfully, costume designer Rita Ryack doesn’t let the clothes overpower the story — she stays accurate but keeps the tackiness to a minimum. The film is also a rock anthem blowout. Shankman talked of wanting to make a movie that was, “. . . a tribute, honor and loving embrace of the music, which is not just hard rock but also 80’s pop and rock anthems. The music people know and respond to and which bring back not only a feeling of nostalgia, but also a new enjoyment of that kind of music.” With anthems from the likes of Def Leppard, Foreigner, Journey, Poison and Twisted Sister, he delivers in that endeavor.
Set aesthetics aside, Boneta makes his first feature film debut as Drew and proves he’s not just a very pretty face; he’s got the acting and singing credentials to go with it. On a whole the film was well cast — there’s really not a weak link among the background players portrayed by Alec Baldwin, Russell Brand, Paul Giamatti, Mary J. Blige, Malin Akerman and Catherine Zeta Jones. The casting that has sparked the most curiosity, however, is Tom Cruise as Stacee Jax as it is a massive sidestep from his action hero norm (although his cameo as Les Grossman in comedy “Tropic Thunder” is an indicator of his versatility). Tom, surpringly, has the voice and aura becoming of a rock god in this movie. He plays it so cool that if he had been any more laid back he would have been horizontal.
Major credit needs to be given to Chris D’Arienzo (who also wrote the “Rock of Ages” musical), Justin Theroux and Allan Loeb as well. It is no tiny task to take a Broadway musical and flesh it out into a screenplay worthy of the big screen. And director Adam Shankman, with “Hairspray” under his belt proves he was the right director for the job.
For any of you out there who, upon hearing the suggestion to go and see a musical at the cinema, would normally go running for the hills (most men), fear not! Shankman says that his aim was, “. . . to make a movie musical that guys would drag their girlfriends to for a change.” With Rock of Ages, he succeeded.