Tom Cruise hits all the right notes
NEITHER hard work nor will power can turn Tom Cruise’s voice into the steely pipes of Freddie Mercury, Steven Tyler, Dennis DeYoung, Peter Cetera or Adam Lambert—that’s simply a scientific impossibility, because an exceptional voice is a special gift more than an instrument acquired through rigorous training.
But, “Rock of Ages” is a career-boosting testament to what hard work and will power can accomplish for a superstar in dire need of reinvention—and we’re glad to note that the risks Tom Cruise has taken have paid off beautifully (and musically). In fact, he is the best thing about Adam Shankman’s crowd-pleasing screen version of Chris D’Arienzo’s ’80s-inspired “jukebox” rock musical!
Search for love
With Shankman (“Hairspray”) and choreographer Mia Michaels at the helm, the movie throbs with kitschy verve and winking fun as it follows a small-town girl and a city boy’s search for love and musical stardom in late ’80s LA.
Sherrie Christian (Julianne Hough) and Drew Boley’s (Diego Boneta) Hollywood dreams begin to take shape when they meet—as waitress and all-around errand boy, respectively—at Dennis Dupree’s (Alec Baldwin) Bourbon Room, a legendary rock joint that happens to be in dire financial straits.
It doesn’t help that the mayor’s rock-hating, Bible-quoting wife, Patricia Whitmore (the gloriously scene-stealing Catherine Zeta-Jones), is out to rid the Sunset Strip of “filth, sin, and rock ‘n roll—a disease with no cure!”
Dennis and his omnipresent assistant, Lonny (Russell Brand), see a bright light at the end of the tunnel, however, when reclusive rock god, Stacee Jaxx (Cruise), agrees to perform at the Bourbon before he embarks on a solo career. Problem is, the boozed-out superstar is as unstable as he is brilliant!
Worse, Jaxx even ends up nipping Sherrie and Drew’s romance in the bud, without his knowing it—a development that drives the former to take a job as an exotic dancer, and shoves the latter into the limelight, as the hip-hop- and rap-mouthing frontman of a boy band!
Shankman effectively captures the throbbing energy of the musical medium and coaxes winsome portrayals—as well as outstanding-to-serviceable singing—from his formidable cast. Hough (from last year’s execrable “Footloose” remake) and Boneta have pretty faces and radio-friendly voices, but they vanish into the background when Baldwin, Brand, Zeta-Jones (who aces her Michael Jackson-inspired number), Malin Akerman (as journalist Constance Sack, Jaxx’s premier provocateur), Mary J. Blige (as gorgeous strip club mama, Justice) and Paul Giamatti (as Jaxx’s crooked manager) take center stage.
Unfortunately, the film, which “re-adjusts” some of the stage version’s plotlines to steer the movie closer to the GP market, is unable to sustain the momentum set by its show-stopping production numbers (featuring the music of Journey, Pat Benatar, Bon Jovi, Poison, Twisted Sister, Reo Speedwagon, Styx, etc.) and laugh-out-loud comedic flourishes (watch out for Baldwin and Brand’s zany “I Wanna Know What Love Is” segment), especially when trite “dramatic” moments follow its exhilarating musical numbers.
And, while the musical began its trek to the big screen as a 2005 stage production in LA, its film version has been preempted by Steve Antin’s vastly entertaining 2010 musical kitschfest, “Burlesque,” that paired Christina Aguilera with Cher. “Burlesque” follows an almost identical storyline, and its cast also includes Hough—as Aguilera’s nasty nemesis!
Just the same, “Rock of Ages” is a must-see, because it immortalizes the dazzling rock transformation of the supposedly humorless Tom Cruise, who seamlessly fudges the line between pathos and physical comedy even as he renders his songs with conviction, panache and head-banging flair. Eat your heart out, Daniel Day Lewis!
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