‘Rock of Ages’ review

We’re in for a couple of filmic interpretations of musicals this year: Les Miserables will grace our screens this Christmas, with Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway and Russell Crowe going at it hammer and tongs in revolutionary France, but before we head to 18th century Paris, we’re rocking out in 1980s Los Angeles.

Well, some of us will be. If you don’t like classic rock anthems you might struggle with Rock of Ages. The plot ostensibly revolves around two pert young things trying to make it in the city of angels: aspiring singer Sherrie, played by an overly saccharine Julianne Hough, and aspiring singer Drew Boiley, played by Diego Boneta. They fall in love and then fall out of it and then inevitably back in it again and obviously it’s all insufferable. But weather these tepid performances and there’s some rather good stuff here.

Russell Brand, Alec Baldwin and Catherine Zeta Jones all turn up and camp up. Brand plays himself as ever (only this time with a suspect accent that he probably should have avoided) and Baldwin’s vocal could be stronger, but it’s all relatively entertaining. The two men, rock and roll stalwarts of The Bourbon Room club, face off against Zeta Jones’ character, the anti-rocker whose aim, it seems, is to extirpate the entire genre (it’s best not to dwell too much on the irony of her character performing the very songs she is supposed to revile and just be swept along).

But things really step up when the bejewelled codpiece of Tom Cruise’s substance riddled rocker Stacee Jaxx hones majestically into view. Draped in either leather or models in varying states of dishabille and accompanied by a faithful simian factotum, Cruise sways through his scenes and steals nearly all of them.

Stacee has no problem doing the underpants fandango with any pouting rocky nymphette that wraps her thighs around him, and seems to be lost in a sea of the aforementioned and alcohol. Enter Rolling Stone journalist and more-than-a-bit-gorgeous Malin Akerman. It’s in their exchanges that you will find all the chemistry, humour and twinkle that is so lacking in the Disney Channel pairing that tops the bill. Cruise’s performance is wonderfully hammy, though at least once has genuine depth.

If you feel you must draw out something deeper from the film, it is the question of whether Jaxx is a self obsessed product of his own lust for pussy and booze, or whether behind the (flawless) eye make up lurks a being that is penetratingly sane and self aware. But who the hell even cares? Maverick is singing Bon Jovi!

Mentions should also be given to Paul Giamatti as the sleazy parasitic band manager Paul Gill and Mary J Blige who crops up occasionally to sing your ears to a shuddering climax. And one gravity defying pole dancer.

You can deliberate over whether Rock of Ages is paying tribute to or poking fun at the music featured. You can ponder whether it would work as well without the famous faces. But to do so would be to over analyse. Honestly, what are you expecting from this? It is essentially panto and all the better for it.

Released in UK cinemas on Wednesday 13th June 2012 by Warner Bros. Entertainment.

> Buy the soundtrack album on Amazon.

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