Likely to offer little to satisfy either the nostalgia crowd revisiting 80’s musical memory lane or any generation before or after without a clue, Rock Of Ages requires no particular fondness for the music in question, since its Hollywoodization has substituted an all purpose generic tone. At the same time, the retro-proceedings are so over the top eager to please, that songs emanating from the perpetually overcrowded screen tend to assault rather than heighten the sense.
In the unlikely role of starry eyed Oklahoma innocent Sherrie arriving by bus and hoping to make it as an entertainer somewhere on the Sunset Strip is Julianne Hough, a performer so obviously groomed as a talent long before she auditioned for the movie, that the artificial setup stops the narrative nearly dead in its tracks from the outset. Immediately robbed of all her luggage, Sherrie nevertheless seems to have an endless change of stylish outfits out of nowhere, as she meets up by chance with similarly aspiring but stage fright afflicted young guy, Drew (Diego Boneta).
Relegated to minimum wage bar duty instead at the Strip’s popular but nearly bankrupt Bourbon Room, the eventual lovebirds bide their time until they can encounter their respective fifteen minutes, which is no surprise when they do. Though along the way Sherrie finds herself lured into oddly PG rated pole dancing at a gentleman’s joint presided over by Mary J. Blige, don’t ask. In the meantime, a barrage of entangled, demanding subplots overblown into alternating story lines, compete for screen presence from an increasingly attention-challenged movie audience.
And standing in for the closest thing to dramatic conflict in Rock Of Ages is Catherine Zeta-Jones as Patricia, LA’s voice of stern conscience leading the local religious protest movement to shut down the decadent Strip. Which culminates in a bizarre sanctimonious church ladies chorus line, and is not likely to play well in the Red States across the country. Patricia also happens to be married to the LA mayor, who secretly enjoys being spanked but not by his wife.
Which is not to say that Adam Shankman (Hairspray) consistently directs Rock Of Ages as a frantically overacted filmed stage musical. There’s for instance Tom Cruise, possibly doing a self-parody of an egomaniacal rock superstar, as somewhat of a cross between Lady Gaga and Charles Manson in plush mink. Or was it ermine. And who amuses himself while thoroughly intoxicated throughout, sampling random boobs in the vicinity – among a number of salacious pastimes likely to make Katie Holmes more than blush. And too easily ravishing a disparaging magazine writer (Malin Ackerman) who turns up to interview him, luring her into a round of pool table sex. But trust me, female journalists are not so gullible. At least I don’t think we are.
Likewise providing surprise comic relief during this rather exhausting musical ordeal, is Alec Baldwin as the shaggy owner of The Bourbon Room, and his sidekick played on frisky fast forward by monstrously coiffed Russell Brand. As the rather macho pair discover a really funny fondness for one another after hours, and let lust run its course. Though Baldwin would seem to have some serious competition from a microphone Brand develops an unusually seductive hankering for.