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Rock of Ages (AF)


Stars: Tom Cruise, Julianne Hough, Diego Boneta, Alec Baldwin, Russell Brand, Malin Akerman, Paul Giamatti, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Mary J. Blige, Bryan Cranston, Eli Roth

Director: Adam Shankman

Who would have thought it? Tom Cruise made it big in his fifth movie, Risky Business, by playing air guitar in his Y-fronts. Now, a mere 29 years later, he can play a real guitar and sing up a storm too in his conveniently larger-than-life role as a spaced-out rocker in this exuberant movie version of the hit Broadway musical.

The setting is 1987 Los Angeles where Hough, a small town girl from Tulsa, Oklahoma, arrives hoping to make it as a singer. There she meets barman and, conveniently, rock singer Boneta who helps her when her belongings are stolen by getting her a job as waitress in Baldwin’s Bourbon Room club on Sunset Boulevard. After that, it’s a standard ‘boy-meets-girl-boy-gets-girl-boy-loses-girl-boy-gets-girl-again-just-in-time-for-the-final-fade-out’ story.

OK, it’s a familiar-enough plot, but that hardly matters here since Hairspray director Shankman understands that he is making a musical and not bringing Chekhov to the screen which he does with vigour and terrific choreography. The movie simply sets out to entertain and, though I can’t claim to be a devout fan of retro rock, I enjoyed the film a great deal more than I had expected.

It’s a great deal more fun watching Cruise ham it up as a raunchy rocker garlanded with tattoos on his unclothed torso and driven downwards by liquor, drugs and sex. His interview with Rolling Stone reporter Ackerman begins with him stalling and ends up with the couple having lively sex while, within the limits of the ‘12A’ certificate, still managing to keep most of their clothes on.

Jones, wearing some rather unsuitably coloured purple lipstick, dances up a storm as Mayor Cranston’s wife who embarks on a vigourous campaign (“Rock and Roll is a disease”) to have him re-elected by having Baldwin’s club closed down, Giametti steals his scenes as Cruise’s appropriately crooked agent and Brand provides the film with its subordinate ‘boy-meets-boy-boy-gets-boy’ storyline when he locks lips with Baldwin who is clearly having a ball with his role. Hough and Boneta acquit themselves with easy charm appropriate to their roles.

No masterpiece, to be sure, but one for fun.

Alan Frank

USA 2012. UK Distributor: Warner Brothers (New Line). Colour by FotoKem/Print by Technicolor.
123 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 16 Jun 2012