Rock of Ages

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Entertainment: +2

Content: -4

Tom Cruise, Julianne Hough, Diego Boneta, Paul Giamatti, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Malin Akerman, Mary J. Blige, Alec Baldwin, Russell Brand. Musical taken from a stage play. Directed by Adam Shankman.

FILM SYNOPSIS: Under the direction of Adam Shankman (Hairspray), Rock of Ages tells the story of small town girl Sherrie and city boy Drew, who meet on the Sunset Strip while pursuing their Hollywood dreams.  Their rock ‘n’ roll romance is told through the heart-pounding hits of Def Leppard, Foreigner, Journey, Poison, REO Speedwagon, Twisted Sister and more.

The movie musical stars Julianne Hough (Burlesque, Footloose), with actor/singer Diego Boneta in his feature film debut, Russell Brand (Arthur, Get Him to the Greek), Oscar® nominee Paul Giamatti (Cinderella Man), Academy Award® winner Catherine Zeta-Jones (Chicago), Malin Akerman (The Proposal) and R&B queen Mary J. Blige, with Oscar® nominee Alec Baldwin (The Cooler, TV’s 30 Rock), and Oscar® nominee Tom Cruise (Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, Magnolia, Jerry Maguire) as Stacee Jaxx.

PREVIEW REVIEW: I found Rock of Ages more revealing of today’s culture than the actual music industry of the 1980s. It’s well made technically, it has a lot of energy, and Ms. Hough has great legs. But like most musicals, the actual story is pretty shallow. In cases such as My Fair Lady or West Side Story, a thin premise is not necessarily a bad thing. Their magnificence rests in their style and execution. But Rock of Ages professes to reveal the underbelly of the music industry of the 1980s while, purposely or not, indicating the shift in society’s social acceptability. But it has the potent punch of a dead boxer.

The film attempts to mock conservatives and religious folk, but it does so with a cast of characters so hedonistic and morally challenged that the assault only reflects the hypocritical nature of those doing the assaulting.

Underneath their glitz and glamour, the characters that populate the production expose their insides as nothing more than those of whitewashed sepulchers, foul and corrupt.

The two young leads are given a lesson that reveals the destructive nature of celebrity, yet at the end, they suddenly embrace it. And we are supposed to leave the theater unafraid for their future.

Like 2002’s Chicago, this Rock of Ages also fleshes out its meager story with huge doses of sensuality and bawdy humor. I have to admit I enjoyed the Oscar-winning Chicago due to its production values and the performances (everybody did their own singing), and its musical enthusiasm was reminiscent of old Hollywood. But Rock of Ages just reminds me of how this era’s filmmakers somehow seduce audiences with a glitzy glut of crude and desensitizing material, which they vomit before us in the name of entertainment.

DVD Alternatives: A Star Is Born. Though spotlighting a different time and music genre, this Judy Garland/James Mason semi-musical is an incisive look at how fame and ego can destroy lives. While I’m not a big fan of Judy Garland, in this production (as in Judgment at Nuremberg and I Could Go On Singing) she demonstrates her full range as a soulful entertainer. It is a terrific performance, as she demonstrates a woman stung by an industry’s ability to suck the soul out of its minions.

The Artist. Reflecting so much that makes up the human psyche, including pride, passion and compassion, The Artist reminds moviegoers of the omnipotence of film imagery. The film also makes a powerful point: when life seems darkest, the next day can offer hope and light.

Preview Reviewer: Phil Boatwright
Warner Bros.

The following categories contain objective listings of film content which contribute to the subjective numeric Content ratings posted to the left and on the Home page.

Crude Language: Some crude sexual references, especially from Russell Brand, though admittedly, it’s difficult to understand a single thing he says.

Obscene Language: Around a dozen obscenities, mostly the s-word.

Profanity: Three offensive uses of Jesus’ name; the expression “Oh my God” is bandied about several times, it being about the only reference to the Creator of artists.

Violence: None

Sex: The film is very sensual, with most of the female cast members dressing provocatively throughout; several songs highlight sex and sexuality; one comic song has two men declaring their love for each other, the song ending with them kissing; one politician running as a conservative is having an adulterous affair and we see the couple engaging in pre-sex activity.

Nudity: No nudity, but pole dancers and others are dressed very provocatively in several sequences.

Sexual Dialogue/Gesture: None

Drugs: Lots of drinking, with no downside of alcohol abuse suggested; though I caught no visuals of drug use, the Tom Cruise character is portrayed as a drug abuser; the character goes through the film in a numbed state.

Other: None

Running Time: 123 minutes
Intended Audience: Teens and Up

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