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‘Rock of Ages’ sounds and looks great, but suffers from cliché storytelling and shallow characters

By John Goodspeed
On June 18, 2012

When most people think of classic ’80s rock ‘n’ roll, they describe tight clothes, guitar solos and sex appeal. In the new musical “Rock of Ages,” moviegoers experience all of these as well as some late ’80s classic rock anthems.

The story follows two young lovers, Sherrie Christian (Julianne Hough), an aspiring singer ready to find fame on the Sunset Strip, and Drew Boley (Diego Boneta), also an aspiring singer and a barback at the Bourbon Room, the local mecca of rock ‘n’ roll in Hollywood. The club’s owner, Dennis Dupree (Alec Baldwin), and his sidekick Lonny (Russell Brand) must deal with financial troubles, conservative mothers attempting to shut the bar down, and the unique persona of Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise), the lead singer of the biggest rock band in the world. Additionally, the mayor’s domineering wife, Patricia Whitmore (Catherine Zeta-Jones), has pledged to rid the city of rock ‘n’ roll. Our heroes try to keep the bar alive and pursue their dreams of fame, while entertaining the audience with a medley of ’80s rock hits.

This film was surprisingly entertaining, even for someone who may not enjoy ‘80s rock ‘n’ roll.

This is a musical about a point in time when everything was very over-the-top, especially the music and musicians.

Seeing Cruise with long hair and leather pants running around the stage without a shirt on would seem strange in a modern context but worked really well for this movie. This musical won’t be recognized for being a gut-busting comedy, but there were a few funny moments that really hit the mark.

There were, however, many things about the film that could have been better.

The actual story is cliché — boy meets girl, they fall in love, some miscommunication leads to a betrayal where they are separated, they grow as people, they resolve their issues, and everyone lives happily ever after.

Although that may be the standard way of writing a musical, it’s very trite and lazy.

Many of the character arcs were predictable, too. From the minute the antagonistic Patricia is introduced, it’s easy to guess the secret motivations for her crusade against Jaxx.

The comedy duo of Baldwin and Brand are severely underused. These two actors are amazing at improvising lines which are usually funnier than the original script, but here they seemed limited.

They could have been replaced with lesser actors and no one would have noticed.

The end of the movie felt incomplete. Important questions were left unanswered, and not everything was wrapped up with a nice little “happily ever after” bow.

Overall, “Rock of Ages” was an entertaining film. Casual audiences may get lost in the style-over-substance approach, but it’s a great show for fans of musicals and ’80s rock.

On a scale of “Wait to watch it on Netflix” to “Go to the midnight release,” this movie ranks as “Go on $5 Tuesday.”

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