When I first saw the trailers for The Rocker, I knew I had to see it. No, not because as a kid I had dreams of one day being a world famous rock star who had to fight incredibly sexy girls off with a stick (even though I did have those fantasies). Actually, the movie reminded me of an old high school friend, Marc Ambrosy, who was a kick ass drummer without a really good band to call his own. Go ahead call me a nostalgic old fart if you must, I can handle it.
The similarities end there — thankfully, as I’m sure the story wouldn’t have been as funny had it been based on his life story. What the screenwriters, Maya Forbes and Wallace Wolodarsky, of The Rocker did put forth is an asinine premise, utilizing the peculiar comedic talents of Rainn Wilson to the fullest.
He takes on the role of Robert ‘Fish’ Fishman, a middle-aged, has been drummer with enough pent up frustrations to choke a goat. Frustrations he has every right to harbor — he has a dead end job, no girlfriend and 20-years ago, he was unceremoniously kicked out of his band Vesuvius, only to see them rise to become one of the biggest bands on earth. Oh yeah, he looks like Rainn Wilson with a mullet too. But life is all about second chances. He gets his when his nephew Matt (Josh Gad) asks him to play drums for his band, A.D.D.’s first gig. Once on stage, Fish quickly regains his thirst for fame and everything else he feels he is owed. But to recapture all that he has to first convince the rest of the band — Curtis (Teddy Geiger) and Amelia (Emma Stone) — and their parents that the group needs to tour the country to support the record they’ve just cut. As you can probably guess, once the tour bus starts rolling, Fish’s rock-star antics begin.
And you know what? More often than not, his antics are funny (even if the material is a bit dated). Even simple scenes like watching Fish stick his head out of the sunroof and get hit in the face with a branch or watching him get hit in the nuts by a surge protector (after throwing a television out the window) just made me laugh. The reason for my laughs is simple — Wilson is deadpan serious in his delivery and he has mastered the ability to make ridiculous faces. The rest of the band don’t really embrace the rocker lifestyle — they’re pretty much all sticks in the mud playing the straight man to Wilson’s funny man schtick. Each of them do, however, have a moments of their own that derive a chuckle or two (mostly the fat kid gets the laughs).
There are two things missing and one that should have been toned down that would have solidified The Rocker for me. For the missing, how wasn’t the romantic spark between Fish and Curtis’ mom Kim (Christina Applegate) not investigated further. Clearly she was put into the film as a romantic interest, but aside from a boatload of sexual tension and a forced kiss, there was nothing. And when Fish has the chance to confront his ex-bandmates in Vesuvius, I needed more than a simple ‘turn the other cheek’ moment. 20 years of hatred were brewing within him and I wanted nothing less than to see him piss on their shoes, jam a drumstick up their asses or trash their gear. Something, anything would have worked! I would have also liked it if the ‘After School Special’ feel was muted. It’s a comedy people, and there were a few too many serious, become an adult moments for my adolescent brain to handle.
There are a few things to take away from the movie though. Christina Applegate looks great even with a double mastectomy. God bless her. The other — Mr. Wilson proved in the right role, he can do just as good of a job at sophomoric comedy as Will Ferrell and Jack Black. Hopefully, he’ll get a chance to do more.