Rock of Ages

June 15, 2012 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Julianne Hough, Diego Boneta, Tom Cruise
Directed by: Adam Shankman (“Hairspray”)
Written by: Chris D’Arienzo (“Barry Munday”), Justin Theroux (“Tropic Thunder”), Allan Loeb (“Just Go With It”)

Isn’t 80s music the best? Sure, the songs can be kinda cheesy, but the catchy melodies, powerful vocals and wailing guitar solos gave birth to not only some of the most popular drunken karaoke songs around, but some truly enduring classics. So, fans of 80s hair metal, imagine all of your favorite songs turned into show stopping song and dance numbers, how awesome would that be? Wait..where are you going? Come back! That’s right, if you’ve ever wanted to hear Twisted Sister’s rebellious anthem “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and Starship’s universally mocked “We Built This City” mashed together for alternating battle cries in a fight between fans of a rock club and an angry mob of moms against rock, you are in for a treat. If you think that sounds absolutely awful, that’s because it is.

The film opens with a “small town girl” named Sherrie (Julianne Hough) stepping off a bus in LA where she hopes to make it as a singer. Shortly after stepping out and singing a few songs, Sherrie gets mugged and has her precious records stolen. There to help her out is a “city boy” (GET IT?!?) Drew (Deigo Boneta) who works at The Bourbon Room, a famous local rock club. After Drew gets Sherrie a job at The Bourbon Room, they browse around a record store, where Drew reveals that he is a singer that desperately wants to be a big star. Of course, he doesn’t just say this, he grabs a random hanging guitar, jumps on top of a shelf and belts out a rendition of Foreigner’s “Jukebox Hero” as almost a mini-concert, complete with a spotlight being shined on him and shoppers going nuts. When that settles, Drew reveals to Sherrie that he can’t be the star he wants because he has stage fright. That’s right. The guy who just made love to a Tower Records during business hours crumbles at the prospect of performing in front of a more traditional audience. Enter Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise), an over-the-top rock star caricature who is either the most successful cover artist of all time or a rock and roll enigma who is responsible for classic hits like “(Wanted) Dead or Alive” and “Pour Some Sugar On Me.” To be fair, Cruise gives 100 percent to the sexually-charged and alcohol-fueled role, but that gimmick, combined with overplayed rock-star quirks like Cruise’s ever-present pet monkey, undercuts the character’s impact.

A major part of why “Rock of Ages” fails so completely is that the script is truly bad. Not only is it ridden with clichés and very unimaginative jokes, but nearly every line in the film serves as an uncomfortable, clumsy segue into another song. I actually let out an audible “ugh…” when, while explaining a potential job to Hough, Mary J. Blige tells her that she can have it “ANYWAY YOU WANT IT, THAT’S THE WAY YOU NEED IT.” It’s clear that cast members like Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand are having fun with their roles. It’s a shame that they are given such uninspiring material to work with. Another major problem with “Rock of Ages” is that it does a disservice to the music it borrows. Nearly everyone in the cast sounds like they were taken straight from a Broadway stage. Boneta, for example, is by no means a bad singer. But no matter what song he performs in the film, he does not sound anything like a singer from the 80s. In fact, the only member of the cast who captures anything resembling an accurate reproduction of the film’s songs is Cruise.

When thinking about “Rock of Ages,” its difficult to determine who the intended audience for this film is. Most diehard fans of classic rock and hair metal will hate hearing their favorite songs from the 80’s bastardized and turned into Broadway tunes. Perhaps fans of musicals will be charmed, but since it makes use of pre-existing songs of a specific genre, does there need to be some sort of overlap? When the film closes with a big stage production of the Journey song “Don’t Stop Believin’,” (SPOILER WARNING)  I couldn’t help but laugh to myself when one of the cast members, without a hint of irony, delivers the line “the movie never ends it goes on, and on, and on and on…” Clocking in at just a shade over two hours, I couldn’t agree more. Those looking for a fun, nostalgic trip are better off spending their money on a Foreigner greatest hits album, cranking it up and singing along with their friends.

Bedtime Stories

December 16, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Adam Sandler, Kerri Russell, Guy Pearce
Directed by: Adam Shankman (“Hairspray”)
Written by: Matt Lopez (“The Wild”) and Tim Herlihy (“Mr. Deeds”)

When are actors, directors, and filmmakers in general going to learn that after they pop out a few kids with their significant other, they don’t necessarily have to take a step back during their children’s formidable years and think to themselves, “You know, I’d really like to make a movie my kid could watch.”

It’s hard enough to make a family film for parents and kids with IQs above, say, 35, but it’s probably even more difficult when you have something as precious as good intentions invested into the project. Remember the Robert Rodriguez 2005 debacle “The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl 3D,” a movie written from a story conjured up by his 8-year-old son? Even innocent ideas can be irrefutably toxic.

In “Bedtime Stories,” director Adam Shankman (“Hairspray”) and screenwriters Matt Lopez (“The Wild”) and Tim Herlihy (“Mr. Deeds”) make such a disaster on screen, it’s hard to really point fingers at anybody since the primary concept for the film seems to have been scribbled down by kindergarteners working on writing shifts.

Maybe that’s the idea Lopez and Herlihy wanted to convey, but in “Bedtime Stories” even the uber-dorky Adam Sandler doesn’t seem like the right match against the grab bag of nonsense tossed around so effortlessly. In the film, Sandler plays Skeeter Bronson, a hotel handyman who agrees to babysit his nephew and niece for his sister Wendy (Courtney Cox) even though he hasn’t seen them in four years. Since the kids are forbidden to do anything fun or time consuming like watch TV, Skeeter tells them a bedtime story, a story which the children happily add their own ideas to the narrative. But when the kid’s embellishments to the story start coming true (the script gets really sketchy here), Skeeter tries to use the newfound magic to manipulate a few things to go his way.

There’s plenty more grizzle and fat in “Bedtime Stories” that won’t hurt to omit since it makes no bearing either way on the topsy-turvy mess. This includes a bland romance between Skeeter and his sister’s friend Jill (Kerri Russell) and some terrible CGI effects a la “Alvin and the Chipmunks” featuring a wide-eyed hamster who gives new meaning to annoying. Actually, Rob Schneider gives new meaning to annoying, but he’s not nearly in this as much as the rodent.