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Laramie Movie Scope:
Rock of Ages

A little bit of rock, but no soul

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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June 17, 2012 -- This at least looked like a good idea for a motion picture, even if the execution of the idea left something to be desired. This is sort of a cross between “Xanadu” and “Footloose.” You've got the conservative moral crusader, Patricia Whitmore (Catherine Zeta-Jones of “The Legend of Zorro”) ranting about the evils of rock and roll trying to shut down an iconic nightclub which has fallen on hard times. Then you've got the cute kids trying to make it in show business while trying to save the nightclub at the same time. While there is a small amount of actual rock and roll music in this movie, what it lacks is soul.

The cute, talented kids are Sherrie Christian (Julianne Hough of “Footloose”) and Drew Boley (Diego Boneta of the “90210” TV show). The owners of the Bourbon Room, the place that Patricia Whitmore wants to shut down, are Dennis Dupree (Alec Baldwin of “It's Complicated”) and Lonny (Russell Brand of “Get Him to the Greek”). Dupree is an old friend of rock star Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise of “Mission Impossible - Ghost Protocol”). Jaxx agrees to make an appearance at the Bourbon Room, which will draw a crowd big enough to put the place back in the black and back on the map, but Jaxx's evil manager, Paul Gill (“The Hangover Part II”) keeps all the money for the appearance. Another key character is Justice Charlier (Mary J. Blige of “I Can Do Bad All by Myself”), owner of a strip club.

This being a musical, everybody sings, and all the main characters can sing well enough, but there is only one professional singer among the major characters with a voice well suited for rock and roll in this movie and that is Mary J. Blige. She is head and shoulders above the rest when she cuts loose. Christian and Boneta have good voices for slower ballads, like “Sister Christian” and “Waiting for a Girl Like You.” Most of the songs in this movie are not rock and roll, but rather slower pop tunes and power ballads like those listed above and “Can't Fight This Feeling” and “Every Rose Has its Thorn.”

One of the advantages of making a sort of jukebox musical like this is you can pick your songs from a wide variety of hits. This film is set in the 1980s. There may not be a lot to choose from in this decade, but why include Jefferson Starship's hit song “We Built This City,” which was voted the worst pop song of the 1980s in a 2011 Rolling Stones online poll? I think the song is fine, but picking that song is just asking for trouble from all those people, and critics, who hate that song. At least “We Built This City” has a beat that, if not rock, is close to it. Like most movies that claim to be about rock. Most of the songs in it don't have the 4/4 time signature of rock.

Like most musicals, the story takes a back seat to the songs. The budding romance between Sherrie Christian and Drew Boley works well enough, but the other romances in the film, and there are several of those, are not convincing. The characters seem to be posing, self-aware, in on the joke, rather than actually surrendering to romance. There didn't seem to be any real feeling involved in these romantic alliances. Rather than powering the story, these romances merely serve to take up time between songs. The story splits the difference between farce and romance. It should have gone whole hog, one way or the other.

Tom Cruise, as Jaxx, is perhaps the most interesting character in the film. He is supposed to be a smoldering sex symbol, but his real nature is mysterious. The nature of Cruise's actual sexual orientation is the subject of a lot of speculation in Hollywood. This speculation adds to the mystery of the Jaxx character, either deliberately or by happenstance. As with Cruise himself, the tension between Jaxx's public persona and his inner self powers every scene he is in. Although the movie supposedly reveals Jaxx's real passion (this is not convincing), the real Tom Cruise is as much a mystery as ever. Russell Brand specializes in playing obnoxious characters, but in this film he's actually likeable. Alec Baldwin, playing a sleazy character, goes a little too far with the sleaze. He is a bit too creepy. This film rates a C.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2012 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)