Going to see "Rock of Ages," the feature film based on the stage production, is like buying a CD only to discover there's only one great song in the mix. The rest is just bland fodder filling up space.
Tom Cruise turns in an Oscar-worthy performance in "Rock of Ages" as rock god Stacee Jaxx in this musical set in the rock scene of the '80s. His performance is the only good thing about the movie. The rest is either so poorly done or forgettable that the final product is about as appealing as the '80s fashions that are so prominent in the production.
Against a backdrop of big hair and the hard-driving music of bands such as Def Leppard, Metallica, Foreigner, Bon Jovi and Journey, the movie looks at the efforts of an aging club owner (Alec Baldwin) to save his Sunset Strip night spot. Protesters want the club out of business and the government is coming after unpaid taxes.
Only an appearance by the legendary Jaxx can save the day.
Director Adam Shankman showed great skill turning the stage production of "Hairspray" into a theatrical release. The transformation of "Rock of Ages" is far more rocky because of a thin and stale storyline, a lack of likable characters and, surprisingly, a void of interesting dance numbers.
Shankman cast Julianne Hough, a marvelous dancer and choreographer, to play the Oklahoma girl who comes to Los Angeles to find fame and fortune but ends up waiting tables. The lack of dance numbers for her is almost criminal.
Instead, Hough spends more time singing, including a duet of "Wanted Dead or Alive" with Cruise. Her voice is too thin and doesn't have the power or grittiness needed to make these rock anthems work.
Several changes were made for the screen version, including the role of the rock protester played by Catherine Zeta-Jones. Although she shined in "Chicago," Zeta-Jones clomps around the "Rock of Ages" set to "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" in one of the film's few real dance numbers. The choreography, by the usually dependable Mia Michaels, looks like it was done by a third-grader at the last minute for a school talent show.
The film's central lovebirds, played by Hough and Diego Boneta, have some chemistry. But they're reduced to such film cliches as talking about their dreams while visiting the giant Hollywood sign and breaking up over a misunderstanding. Hough's character goes through a few changes from the stage play, but none are for the better.
Cruise carries the movie, whether he's rocking out in front of an arena full of fans, giving a very personal interview to a Rolling Stone reporter (Malin Akerman) or trying to gather the few brain cells Jaxx has left to form a thought. Just as he did with "Tropic Thunder," Cruise shows that when he gets away from the standard action role, he has some strong acting chops.
Had the rest of the movie been as interesting, the film would have rocked you like a hurricane. Instead, moviegoers might suggest they aren't going to take it anymore.
"Rock of Ages," rated PG-13 for language, sexual content. Stars Tom Cruise, Julianne Hough, Diego Boneta, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Alec Baldwin, Russell Brand. Directed by Adam Shankman. Running time: 104 minutes. Grade: C Theaters and times for this movie | Other movie reviews
TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at (559) 441-6355, email@example.com
or @RickBentley1 on Twitter. Read his blog at fresnobeehive.com.