Nothing But A Story Less Time

Rock of Ages

A Review by Ben Hunter
2½ Out of 5 Stars
June 15, 2012 

We’ve rocked out to the publicity.  The generations of the era or better yet the people who’ve been portrayed in this film went crazy when they saw the opportunity to relive the years they channeled their oppression and rocked it out (bull horns sign)!  The day came, our hearts bleeding with emotion for the singing and dancing we were about to experience to be entangled with an incredible, heart felt story that harnessed the pain we felt back when this era was the present era … yet a good time became nothing but a story less time.

Rock of Ages is based off of Chris D’Arienzo’s book, which became a Broadway musical that featured music from classic 1980’s rock bands.  The film keeps its Broadway roots and is the story about a girl Sherrie (Julianne Hough) who moves to Hollywood where she falls in love with Drew (Diego Boneta) and the two embark on living their dream of making it big time as singers and true lovers of real rock and roll. 

That’s about as solid as the story gets.  There’s a lot of “fill” that supports the singing and dancing, which was clearly the primary focus of the piece.  That’s where the movie suffered.  As a filmmaker, first and foremost, you are a STORYTELLER.  Don’t think because you’ve got permission to use classic all time hits from bands such as Bon Jovi, Poison, Journey, & Styx, that you’re going to have a masterpiece of cinema and a brilliant story to tell!

A lot of musicals fall in this category of making sure the choreography is perfect in every way, and not how that choreography services the theme in the best way.  So this was no different with Rock of Ages.  Sherrie & Drew all of a sudden are in a record store, singing and dancing, with extras joining in the background, and the whole 9 yards or the works of your typical musical film.  But why in the world are they in the record store in the first place?!  It adds no depth or further addition to the story whatsoever!  “But it’s a musical about rock and roll so it makes sense to put random locations about rock music in the story, even if they don’t serve a major purpose to the story … right?”  … WRONG! The film even gets corny and cheesy at times and comes off as amateurish.  The writing really suffered.

Let’s make a comedy and call it Grown Ups.  Then we’ll spend millions and millions on getting all these big time, A-list, comedic actors to star in the film.  We won’t have to worry much about a script because we can just throw something together and all these funny actors will just improv and take over and it’ll be this amazing, funny movie that will make critics and families say how great the story was, how much fun … WRONG AGAIN!!  Putting A-list actors in front of the camera with no well thought out story and turning the camera on is not how a great movie is made, it’s how a crappy one is.  Putting singers and dancers in front of the camera performing all time classic hits won’t cover up a poor story; it all boils down to that.  Story, story, story!  I can’t stress that enough.  Instead of the $4 million Hollywood producers spend on things like Angelina Jolie’s outfit and how perfect the seams of her Dolce & Gabana really accentuate her breasts, they should spend 4 dollars on a pack of pencils to properly write Tomb Raider so the project doesn’t go straight into the toilet. 

Rock of Ages has a lot of singing and dancing, well thought out choreography, so it really connects with female viewers, and those of the generation because they all love the music and the style of filmmaking.  Yet, a poorly told story is a poorly told story, and numbers don’t lie, not to mention the overall credibility of its true art factor amongst all viewers and not just the few who take a liking to it.  So it’s got no Oscar chances and making no money in the box office to put that in laymen’s terms.  But I’m sure the die-hard rockers will help the film to make its money back.  Tom Cruise does do a really good job of portraying a lost rock star that’s treated like a God and is just trying to find his way.  

I can see why the Broadway musical fails to compete with its predecessors such as Hairspray and Mamma Mia.  Translate this over into film and the numbers and reviews are the same with these film adaptations, Rock of Ages fails to deliver in both stages of theater & film.  It’s a shame, I had such high hopes for this film as it was one of my greater anticipations of the year.  

But hey, if you’re looking to just rock out to some good music, a story that crumbles won’t be all that bad, especially if you’re a fan of the era.

Stories come and go, we will still rock on!

Rock of Ages
Musical, 123 Minutes, PG-13
Written by: Justin Theroux, Chris D’Arienzo, and Allan Loeb
Directed by: Adam Shankman
Cast: Julianne Hough, Diego Boneta, Russell Brand, Paul Giamatti, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Malin Akerman, Mary J. Blige, with Alec Baldwin, & Tom Cruise

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