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The musical may be dead but rock lives on. Theatrical release review
on September 15, 2012
I went to see it opening night, and without preconceptions found it to be a highly enjoyable experience.
Rock of Ages has now run as a successful musical on Broadway for three years, while the musical as a movie genre seems to have died a death on the movie screen in recent years. Moulin Rouge though derivative of pop music did very well. Chicago in 2003 won numerous Oscars. Phantom of the Opera did very well, and Mamma Mia was a huge hit. Nine the musical was spectacularly unsuccessful despite a cast stuffed with Oscar winners, and experts said there would be no more Hollywood musicals, that it was now dead as a genre.
Burlesque, starring Cher, Christina Aguilera, and Julianne Hough in a minor role was dismissed as a flop, though it was quite entertaining.
Rock of Ages stars Julianne Hough in her first leading role, and also stars Alec Baldwin, Russell Brand, and Tom Cruise among others. As an entertainment experience, I find it outstanding. Many musicals fail because the music is not good. Mamma Mia could not go wrong with Abba music, and Phantom of the Opera had numerous hit songs.
Almost all the songs on Rock of Ages are classic rock anthems from the likes of Def Leppard, Journey and others.
Julianne Hough plays the wide eyed ingenue who lands on the strip and gets mugged. She finds a job at a rock venue, and has to conceal the fact she can sing. She falls in love with someone who works there. Everybody has a dream of making it big. So far, so like Burlesque.
The premise of the movie, though hardly original, nevertheless sweeps you along, and someone in the row behind me started clapping. I had to give him the three quarter head turn. The scenes are well put together, and musical production standards are outstanding. All the actors did their own singing. Tom Cruise does an incredible job as Stacey Jaxxx, the crazed rock singer, Baldwin as the club owner, and Brand looks the part. Catherine Zeta Jones who won the Oscar for her performance in Chicago, gives a star turn as well to do political wife on a mission to close down the rock venue, and Stacey Jazzz is her arch nemesis. Paul Giamatti plays the sleazy agent.
In Burlesque the club owner played by Cher struggles financially, fending off developers. In ROA the club owner played by Baldwin struggles financially fending off activists, and the authorities.
I found many parallels between this movie and Burlesque, although Rock of Ages is much better. Our heroine experiences some setbacks. The relationship becomes complicated by stardom, and misunderstandings, and finally we have the dark side of the dream. There are too many memorable scenes to mention, the scenes had a thematic relationship to the songs being sung, and there is a monkey named Heyman who added some comic relief.
One of the funniest scenes is between Russell Brand and Alec Baldwin, simply priceless, and Tom Cruise and the girl from Rolling Stone. Cruise proves that he is an outstanding actor not only in action movies, but in any genre, and does an outstanding job on the vocals.
Julianne Hough offered outstanding pitch perfect vocals, and I loved her harmonising. She can sing, she can dance, she can act. It does not hurt that she is also very cute. I don't know how much of a future she will have if she stays in this genre, but any director casting a musical would be foolish I think to overlook her as she does such a good job here.
At the end of the movie, applause shook the theater. Last time that happened was three years ago. I left the movie feeling elevated like I was walking on air. I will probably buy the soundtrack.
As for the critics, Rock of Ages opened to a $14.4 million weekend, making it the sixth highest opening weekend for a musical, not good enough for the critics who said Cruise was losing his star power, even though Cruise did not play the main character, and did they see Mission Impossible 4 the highest grossing movie of his career. That was 6 months ago, and $600 million. Rock of Ages is a blip on the radar screen of a stellar career where his movies have grossed $3.6 billion domestically.
Although you could wait to get the movie on dvd, I do recommend seeing it in release if you can. If you like musicals,rock music or just to be entertained, I see no reason why you would not love this unless you hate rock music.
I think you will love it, and I hope this was helpful.