ET Movie Review: 'Rock of Ages'
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"Rock of Ages" is based on the '80s-nostalgia jukebox musical that paid tribute to the cheesy glories of hair metal. The movie is set on the Sunset Strip in 1987 where Sherrie, a cornfield blond just off the bus, lands a job as a cocktail waitress and locks glances with a cuddly headbanger named Drew. Right away, you can tell that "Rock of Ages" is going to be one of those movies in which the sets look like sets, with actors like Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand in wigs you can practically see pasted on. The two leads, Julianne Hough and Diego Boneta, are so bland they actually made me wish I was watching Zac Efron and Miley Cyrus.
Yet for all that, the musical numbers in Rock of Ages...well, what I wanted to say is that the musical numbers make it all worthwhile. That they take songs like “Any Way You Want It” and “Come On Feel the Noise” and wire you into their suburban-rebel, trash-the-bedroom vibe.
On stage, "Rock of Ages" sizzled and popped. But the film's director, Adam Shankman, who did such a terrific job with the big-screen version of "Hairspray", is a lot less sure-footed when it comes to the postures and emotions of rowdy Americana. Most of the numbers in "Rock of Ages" are flatly shot and choreographed, and they look as if they'd been edited together with a meat cleaver. With rare exceptions, they don't channel the excitement of the music -- they stultify it.
For all that, there is a reason to see "Rock of Ages", and that's Tom Cruise's performance as Stacee Jaxx, the film's jaded and dissolute Axl Rose figure. Cruise, holding his pistol-tattooed flesh at a drunken 45-degree angle, has the look and the poses down flat. But he also makes Stacee a haunted and interesting presence, and he does a rendition of “Wanted Dead or Alive” that genuinely rocks it. It’s one of the rare moments when you can glimpse the movie "Rock of Ages" should have been.