You gotta hand it to Tom Cruise: he may be off his rocker, but in Rock of Ages, he is way off his rocker. He sings, blings, and sweats his way straight into the heart of the movie, stealing each and every moment he’s given on screen. This isn’t to say that his performance will necessarily restore his career to the pristine status it once knew, but rest assured, moviegoers: he will more than deliver the price you pay for admission this weekend.
The movie is directed by Adam Shankman, who you might remember as the man who helmed the John Travolta-in-drag musical, Hairspray. Much like Hairspray, Rock of Ages is about big dreams and bigger voices. It is, after all, also based on a popular stage musical from the 1980s which many remember for its uplifting message and boisterous energy. The story survives the translation to film, though you can’t help but feel that the passage of time has made the movie (and its message) a bit more trite than one may like. Modern audiences, after all, expect a little mess and complication in their movies. This musical delivers big on song and dance, and almost nothing in terms of conflict and character. But then, that’s not the point, and the makers know that.
Julianne Hough and Diego Boneta make up the young couple at the heart of story: she’s a small town girl from Oklahoma and he’s a city boy, both with dreams of making it big as singers in Hollywood. When they meet and fall in love on the Sunset Strip, the musical numbers almost never end, which might sound like a bad thing except that the music here is rock: where else will you get to hear Tom Cruise belt out Pat Benatar and Joan Jett classics that make the audience want to jump out of their seats and sing along? This is most definitely a movie that invites (and almost demands) audience participation. So brace yourself.
Tom Cruise is the reigning king of rock ‘n roll, Stacee Jaxx, who pummels the stage of Dennis Dupree’s (Alec Baldwin) club in Hollywood in 1987. Russell Brand is Dupree’s assistant Lonny, and Catherine Zeta Jones and Paul Giamatti also show up to sing along, but once the microphones have been muted, the only one you’ll probably remember is Cruise. He was, once upon a time, the most electric screen icon in Hollywood. Rock of Ages reminds you why.