Here we have a film that is such a cocktail of egregiously crass elements that any kind of attempt at a seriously critical analysis is going to be doomed to fail. It’s as pointless as wagging a finger at a puppy as it shits on your coffee table – he’s just going to keep smiling at you, so you may as well stop wasting time and start clearing it up, while perhaps taking a quiet moment to respect his moronic audacity. There’s only one review you need of ROCK OF AGES, and it’s this: it’s a hair-metal musical. And it is almost exactly what you’re picturing.
All told, I quite enjoyed it, partly because I have no attachment to the music whatsoever, so I have no problem with the music being supposedly bastardised in this fashion. In fact, I find the idea of a hardcore Poison fan coming out of it shaking with rage at how “Pour Some Sugar On Me” has been appropriated by the film-makers pretty funny. Also: the idea of a hardcore Poison fan. All the music in ROCK OF AGES was written by people for whom artistic integrity lagged far behind blowjobs, money, hair, blowjobs, money, and blowjobs on their list of concerns, so a musical seems about the right place for it.
Also, I get the feeling that watching ROCK OF AGES in the cinema is a much more enjoyable experience than seeing it in the West End would be. I can’t quite tell you why I think this is the case, having not seen it on stage but I think it might be because everyone in the film version seems to be hugely enjoying themselves, in a way that isn’t always the case in musical theatre, where in my experience an air of quiet desperation isn’t unheard of.
The likes of Alec Baldwin, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Paul Giamatti, Russell Brand et al don’t have to do nine performances of this week, nor do they particularly have anything to prove, and you can sense throughout that they’re hugely enjoying themselves, turning in outrageous performances that are campier than a dozen Glastonburys. Obvious enthusiasm like this goes a long way, as it manages to sustain the film through some otherwise extremely dodgy moments.
You’ll notice I didn’t include Tom Cruise in that list of fun actors, and it’s because his scenes are in my opinion probably the weakest part of the film. It’s the same reason I didn’t like him particularly in TROPIC THUNDER – the film-makers are so in love with the idea of Tom Cruise being weird that the film slows down entirely whenever he's on screen in order to accommodate his weird excesses. It's an indulgent performance from Cruise, but the writers and director are just as much to blame for assuming that playing off up his name and reputation alone will be enough to engage audiences.
He at least looks the part, with his weathered Iggy Pop abs and crotch-led posture, but the illusion falls apart when he starts singing, with a voice that’s too reedy to sell us on the idea that he’s a rock god, even in a film as patently ridiculous as this one.
Speaking of crotches, this film is one of the most lascivious 12A’s you will ever see, with a non-stop onslaught of leering, panting, thrusting, licking, gyrating, snogging , sucking and pounding that is frankly exhausting. I can only be thankful that it isn’t in 3D, as the experience is close enough to being visually dry-humped for two hours as it is.
Oh yeah – it’s two hours, which is way too long for a film like this. There’s an extended ‘downer’ sequence, where the male lead is forced to work in a boy band (funny) and the female lead seeks empowerment working as a stripper (erm) that goes on for rockin’ ages, and delay the inevitable feel-good finale for much longer than is necessary.
Despite its many, many, many failings, I’d be lying if I didn’t say that there is fun to be had in ROCK OF AGES. It’s so awe-inspiringly lightweight and dumb that it does manage to exude a degree of silly charm, and if you’re in the right mood, you’ll find yourself being taken along by it. If you don’t own a puppy, or alternatively just have a really nice coffee table, I’d highly recommend it.