Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Less Film Than Wild Jukebox

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Less Film Than Wild Jukebox

Article excerpt

'Rock of Ages" is a soundtrack with a visual component tacked on. It's not so much a musical movie as music, with a movie.

Based on a Broadway show, "Rock of Ages" is virtually nonstop singing. The story is told through the lyrics and tunes of 1980s rock hits, sometimes intermixed with each other. Occasionally, the characters will stop singing long enough for a few lines of dialogue -- but even then there's a beat going in the background, and you know the talkie part is just setting up the next number.

The experience of watching it is akin to listening to a runaway jukebox stuck in the '80s, except the voices are replaced by those of actors who can't sing as well as the original artists.

Not that some of them aren't good, and occasionally really good. Among the latter is Tom Cruise as Stacee Jaxx, a wastrel rock god who's part Iggy Pop, part Axl Rose and a part Brett Michaels. Cruise's pipes are surprisingly good as he re-creates the keening wail beloved in that era.

In fact, Cruise is the best thing in the show. It's a shrewdly comedic performance, part celebration of '80s rock excesses but with a heavily ladling of satire. One scene where he seduces a Rolling Stone reporter (Malin Akerman) is the movie's rollicking high point.

Even though it's technically a supporting part, Cruise steals every scene he's in, and whenever Jaxx disappears for too long the film deflates.

Certainly the main characters are dreary. Julianne Hough and Diego Boneta play Sherrie and Drew, youngsters who dream of making it big in the music biz, but end up working at the fictional Bourbon Room in Los Angeles. Of course, it's only a matter of time before they get to take the stage themselves.

Neither actor is a particularly adept singer, and Hough has one of those pinched little-girl voices that sounds like she's singing through a keyhole, a la Britney Spears. She even imitates Spears' annoying affectation of starting every stanza with a little croaky sound.

Sherrie is the prototypical small-town girl from Tulsa, living in a lonely world, and Drew is a city boy, so of course their signature song is "Don't Stop Believin' " by Journey, a band that gets a heavy rotation throughout the movie. …

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