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Rock of Ages

Rock of Ages

Released 13 June 2012
Director Adam Shankman

Julianne Hough, Diego Boneta, Paul Giamatti, Russell Brand, Mary J. Blige, Malin Akerman, Bryan Cranston, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Alec Baldwin, Tom Cruise
Writer(s) Chris D'Arienzo

Matt Weaver, Scott Prisand, Carl Levin, Tobey Maguire, Jennifer Gibgot
Origin United States
Running Time 123 minutes
Genre Musical, comedy, drama
Rating 12A

..and aaaages!

Based on the hit stage show (which in London starred the uniquely off-putting duo of Shayne Ward and Justin Lee Collins), Rock of Ages is an example of the newly popular genre known as the jukebox musical, in which previously released songs are slotted into a story. In this case it’s a very simple one. A pretty country girl named Sherrie (Julianne Hough) comes to L.A. to pursue her dream of becoming a singer. She isn’t in the city five minutes when her suitcase is stolen. Luckily on hand is a handsome love interest called Drew (Diego Boneta) who can get her a job in the famous Bourbon Room, a rock venue under threat of closure from new mayor Mike Whitmore (Bryan Cranston) and his evangelical wife (Catherine Zeta Jones). So the stage is set for lots of cheesy, emotional “rocking out” and jokes about big hair.

With a set of songs that include Poison and Whitesnake, I thought Rock of Ages was going to be fairly painful to sit through - but it’s not as bad as all that. At times, it has a school play sort of enthusiasm that is hard not to warm to. Most of these moments come from the spectacle of seeing well-known stars throwing themselves into cheesy musical numbers (well if it worked for Mamma Mia). So we are presented with the cringeworthy but oddly compelling sight of the rhythmically challenged Russell Brand attempting a dance routine, Alec Baldwin throwing the devil horns like a drunk uncle at a wedding and Tom Cruise strutting around topless singing Bon Jovi. They are clearly all there for a good time.

Unfortunately they are also there for a long time; at just over two hours the film falls victim to the same self-indulgence that marks out the musical era it commemorates. After a snappy beginning, Rock of Ages tries the patience with a baggy middle section in which the young lovers can’t seem to stop finding excuses to burst into song. There are at least two musical numbers that could have gotten the chop. For this, we must look to director Adam Shankman (Hairspray), who should have had this film motoring along but instead lets the pace flag so we have time to notice how threadbare the whole story is.

Rock of Ages is not a complete disaster but its guilty pleasures would have been better served in a shorter package.

- Linda O’Brien