Review: 'Rock of Ages' revels in big-haired kitsch
This film image released by Warner Bros. Pictures shows Tom Cruise as Stacee Jaxx in New Line Cinema’s rock musical “Rock of Ages,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. (AP Photo/Warner Bros. Pictures, David James)
Just when you thought you'd never hear Def Leppard's "Pour Some Sugar on Me" again outside of a strip club comes "Rock of Ages," a shiny, splashy homage to the decadence of 1980s rock 'n' roll.
Specifically, we're talking about 1987 on the Sunset Strip, the birthplace of bands like Guns N' Roses and Poison, and all the big-haired, eye-linered debauchery that defined that scene. Your enjoyment of this musical, based on the Tony-nominated Broadway show, will depend greatly on your enjoyment of this music — because director Adam Shankman ("Hairspray") crams in a lot of it.
Did you make out in a car with your high school honey past curfew to Skid Row's "I Remember You"? If your answer is yes, you'll probably have a good time, even though the movie lasts an awfully long time. There's way too much Foreigner on the soundtrack for my personal liking, and no one ever needs to hear Starship's "We Built This City" played in public (or in private for that matter), even ironically. Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'," the film's climactic final number, has the misfortune of having grown tiresome in recent years between its inclusion on "Glee" and "The Sopranos" finale. And if we're really being nitpicky, some of the songs featured here, like the Extreme ballad "More Than Words," didn't even exist yet.
This film image released by Warner Bros. Pictures shows Julianne Hough as Sherrie Christian, left, and Diego Boneta as Drew Boley in New Line Cinema’s rock musical “Rock of Ages,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. (AP Photo/Warner Bros. Pictures, David James)
Still, if this era was a formative time in your life and you're feeling a yearning for kitschy nostalgia, "Rock of Ages" provides a sufficiently fun little escape. Aqua Net! Wine coolers! Men with ponytails! We were so lame.
Sure, the characters are all broad types, from fresh-faced newcomers with dreams of stardom to grizzled, cynical veterans who've seen it all. And sure, their antics are glossed-up and watered-down compared to reality to ensure a PG-13 accessibility. But the movie has enough energy to keep you suitably entertained, as well as a knowing, cheeky streak that prevents it from turning too reverent and self-serious.
The impossibly adorable Julianne Hough stars as Sherrie, a wholesome blonde fresh off the bus from Oklahoma who hopes to make it as a singer in Los Angeles. Instead, she ends up working as a waitress at the venerable (and fictional) Bourbon Room, where she quickly falls for aspiring rocker Drew (Diego Boneta).