Rock of Ages is a movie that takes all those songs you heard in the 80's and makes a musical out of them.
That's pretty much it.
Oh, you're still here? Okay!
Rock of Ages was alright. Theoretically, one could get excited about the prospect of a variety of famed movie actors taking the stage and bellowing forth golden oldies. Awesome actors plus awesome songs? What can go wrong! The problem is that this sounds better on paper than it does in reality. Just like communism.
In Rock of Ages, the plot is loosely tied around an ensemble cast of characters. Primary among these are two young lovebirds with utterly forgettable names played by Julianna Hough and Diego Boneta. And then there's Tom Cruise's rock legend, Stacee Jax. Aside from these main three, we have the two owners of a nightclub (played by Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand) going through trouble keeping it open. We have Malin Akerman's Rolling Stone reporter who interviews Jax. We've Catherine Zeta-Jones' religious conservative protesting the rock prevalent throughout the movie. And some other people who I really don't care to talk about.
The fact of the matter is that the story is almost completely irrelevant and nobody cares. Part of this is that this is intended as a loosely wrapped cinematic spectacle and homage to 80's brilliance. That goal is fine. The other part of this is that, by and large, the acting and how the songs are presented are just not as epic or interesting as one would hope for.
They Didn't Hit Us With Their Best Shot
Overall, this is a case of young actors being completely overshadowed by the older. Diego Boneta is completely uninteresting; his singing just isn't memorable. Julianne Hough is certainly attractive, but I just couldn't get over her voice. Imagine a kitten on helium being forced to sing. It's impossible, but it effectively portrays how aggravating her singing can get. Further adding to the flames of indifference is the fact that their story arc is almost completely bland. Young girl moves to the city, falls in love, they briefly separate due to some incredibly stupid misunderstanding, then fall in love again. Augh! It isn't well written, it's cheesy, and it is beyond rescue. Most of the songs I didn't like fall into their hands and made it even more difficult for me to appreciate the film as a whole.
By contrast, the older actors are far more entertaining. We don't really care about their respective stories, but they're a riot. Although I had immense foreboding over Tom Cruise portraying a rock star, his scenes tend to be the most amusing to watch. This is a level of deranged ridiculousness that made me think of Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean. All of the other older actors get really into it as well. But the problem is that, with rare exceptions, these people just aren't singers. We look to musicals to provide interesting and new twists and takes on songs, or to create entirely ones. I came out of this with zero desire to buy the soundtrack.
It doesn't help that the direction of the film just isn't there. I say that because surely there was some better way to make these classic oldies more exciting to watch. Instead, it seems we're barraged with one after another, as if they believed that causing some sort of 80's mental meltdown would translate into greatness. On the contrary, there were only two songs that I liked the delivery of (“Harden My Heart” and “I Want to Know What Love Is”). Everything else was simply okay. What was it? The choreography? The singers? The threadbare plot? IT JUST ISN'T GOOD ENOUGH.
Now, I won't say that this was an awful movie. I watched it to the end and thought it was alright. But it isn't what you are expecting and what you want. The magic just isn't quite there. The older actors give it their best and are pretty entertaining. But not enough to make this anything more than a passable and forgettable dip into the sea of what makes 80's songs so damn fun to sing at karaoke.