Rock of Ages hits nostalgic notes


Starring Tom Cruise, Julianne Hough, and Alec Baldwin. Rated PG. Now playing

“Just a small town girl, livin’ in a lonely world She took the midnight train goin’ anywhere.” Um, help. Besides being freaked by how weirdly excellent Tom Cruise is at channelling Axl Rose crossed with Jim Morrison crossed with Glenn Danzig, you’ll have Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’ ” in your head like a tumour after seeing Rock of Ages. Which is better than “We built this city, we built this city on rock and roll”… Oh, damn.

What? You forgot how awful a whole bunch of ’80s music was? Why, here’s a movie with a zillion musical numbers to remind you. There’s a story: adorable, bland, wannabe singer Sherrie (Julianne Hough) lands on L.A.’s Sunset Strip in 1987, meets adorable, bland headbanger Drew (Diego Boneta), and starts waitressing at the notorious Bourbon Room, run by an amusing Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand in moronic wigs. Oh wait, Brand always looks like that.

Hair-metal god Stacee Jaxx (Cruise) returns to play the club. Have we seen Tom Cruise in chaps and a diamond-encrusted lion’s head codpiece before? Okay, maybe somebody has. Well, he took the right drugs because he’s funny and wildly deep into the dark, libertine Stacee. Also, the chicks are panting for him, including Malin Akerman playing a Rolling Stone reporter. They have sticky chemistry rolling around singing Foreigner’s “I Want to Know What Love Is”, and Cruise is strangely hot and slithery. And he can sing.

But, Cruise excepted, this Rock (Hairspray’s Adam Shankman directed) feels totally neutered for a movie (from a musical) about the ’80s Strip scene. Where’s the campy-yet-soulful-yet-dirty, huh? Mary J. Blige appears and belts, nicely, but Catherine Zeta-Jones and Bryan Cranston have crap parts.

But—vindication!—yep, Night Ranger’s “Sister Christian” always kinda had something. And, after hearing Cruise do Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead or Alive”, it’s okay to sing “I’m a cowboy, on a steel horse I ride” later. It is.

Watch the trailer for Rock of Ages.

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