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’Rock of Ages‘ more rote than rock

By Julian De Ocampo ’13

“Rock of Ages” – Starring: Tom Cruise, Julianne Hugh, Diego Boneta
2 out of 10

Rock is dead – and good riddance.

Not all rock mind you – just the hyper-masculine hair-metal that serves as the subject matter of Adam Shankman’s “Rock of Ages,” a film adaptation of the Broadway musical of the same name.

Hair-metal was the awkward pubescent phase of rock music when it grew its hair out long, got obnoxiously loud and tried to be something it wasn’t. It was a time before the self-aware young-adult years of the grunge scene or the weird mid-life crisis that was nu-metal (remember when Limp Bizkit was a thing?)

And like looking at awkward high school photos of yourself, “Rock of Ages” is cringe-worthy, embarrassing and best left forgotten.

The biggest shame is that while the ludicrousness of hair-metal makes it ripe for satire, the film bogs itself down with trite sentimentality in serious need of some self-awareness.

Although “Rock of Ages” focuses around an ensemble casts and multiple plots, at its heart is the relationship between Oklahoma country girl Sherrie (Julianne Hugh) and aspiring rock-star Drew Boley (Diego Boneta.)  The star-crossed lovers predictably fall in and out of love due to a series of poorly planned plot devices interspersed with painfully stiff dialogue that feels more rote than rock.

As a musical, the screenwriters appear to have avoided putting any effort into the laughably trivial script, hoping to race ahead on the strength of their musical numbers. What results is a movie mired down by an interminable stream of stiff dialogue, abhorrent characters and tedious plot developments.

But you can’t blame the writers for all of the films problems – co-stars Hugh and Boneta are just as guilty of turning down the volume on this film with their too-serious earnestness that feels hopelessly out-of-place in a film about strippers and dudes with makeup.

The rest of the star-studded cast fares better – barely. Lovers Russell Brand and the bizarrely cast Alec Baldwin hold down the fort as the management of a troubled rock club, and Catherine Zeta-Jones makes the most of her supporting role as the ultra-conservative anti-rock activist working to close the club.

Tom Cruise breathes life into his role as Stacee Jaxx, an idolized sensual hair-metal god, but cannot save the character from growing stale as the movie’s far-too-long two-hour running time ticks by.

Mary J.Blige, in one of her few acting appearances, plays an empowered strip club owner who successfully and somewhat disturbingly goads Sherrie to enter a life of stripping to gain respect. This is just one example of a weirdly misogynistic and objectifying tone the film seems to hold while using the excuse that it’s just a zeitgeist of the times.

But hey, maybe there is an audience for “Rock of Ages.”

If you like listening to poor renditions of already asinine hair-metal hits, or if you’re looking for scantily-clad women, booze, big dance routines and not much else, then maybe you’ll enjoy this film.

But for the rest of us, let’s put the uncouth nostalgia far, far away and look to how far rock has come since then.

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