Big city musical based in late ’80s LA, set to the glam rock tunes of Styx, Bon Jovi, Twisted Sister, Poison and more. Includes a lofty line-up of co-stars: Tom Cruise, Paul Giamatti, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Russell Brand and Alec Baldwin. From the director of Hairspray. Now playing nationwide.
Ever since it was used in the final scene of the last episode of The Sopranos, Journey's uplifting anthem Don't Stop Believing has been front and centre in popular culture. Endless movies have used it, it was at the centrepiece performance of Glee's pilot episode, and now it provides the finale for Rock of Ages.
Its usage speaks to my overall impression of the movie – a collection of pop moments already explored extensively elsewhere, presented with all the emotional depth of a kiddie pool.
The story stumbles from one moment to the next, struggling to embody the drive or power of even a below-average rock music video. The endless mashed-up '80s hair-metal hits don't succeed as anything beyond nostalgia items.
I must admit to being intrigued by the idea of Tom Cruise playing a superstar of another medium, but while he's clearly committed to the role, he projects none of the mystique his character supposedly oozes.
The fame-hungry protagonists played by Julianne Hough and Diego Boneta do very little to distinguish themselves, but she looks the part and he garners some of the film's only genuine laughs with a diversion into boy-bandery. Alec Baldwin looks massively out of place, and Russell Brand is very annoying.
You know a film has something seriously wrong with it when you find yourself wistfully recalling the dramatic complexity of 2010's Burlesque, which follows a remarkably similar track (and also featured Hough).
My goodwill for some of the songs here prevents me from giving Rock of Ages one star, but unless you're fully committed to the jukebox musical cause, stay far away from this movie.