FILM REVIEW: Rock of Ages (12A)

Bow down to the gods of rock as director Adam Shankman cranks up the volume to 11 for this energetic musical based on a popular stage show.

Punctuated by breathlessly choreographed, show-stopping renditions of Pat Benatar, Europe, Foreigner, Journey and Poison among others, Rock Of Ages is 123 minutes of unabashed joy.

The cast are in fine voice including a bare-chested Tom Cruise, who took singing lessons to deliver Bon Jovi’s Wanted Dead Or Alive and Def Leppard’s Pour Some Sugar On Me with a primal swagger.

He rocks.

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So does Shankman’s film which captures the same vitality and boundless sense of fun as the director’s 2007 adaptation of Hairspray, swapping the racial tensions of 1960s Baltimore in that film for the wild abandon of 1980s Hollywood, which serves as a vibrant backdrop here to long-haired, leather-clad romance.

Wannabe singer Sherrie Christian (Julianne Hough) leaves Oklahoma for the bright lights of Los Angeles, where her luggage and prized record collection are stolen the moment she steps off the bus.

She is rescued by aspiring rocker Drew Boley (Diego Boneta) who works as a bartender at The Bourbon Room.

He persuades owner Dennis Dupree (Alec Baldwin) and right-hand man Lonny Barnett (Russell Brand) to hire Sherrie as a waitress.

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Lovebirds Drew and Sherrie don’t stop believin’ in their dreams, even when bare-chested frontman Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise) comes between them.

“When my hamster died, your music really helped me through!” Sherrie coos to her idol, just before Mayor Mike Whitmore (Bryan Cranston) and his puritanical wife Patricia (Catherine Zeta-Jones) pledge to clean up the city by shutting down the dens of musical inequity starting with The Bourbon Room.

“Rock ‘n’ roll is a disease - but it is a disease with a cure!” rages Patricia.

An interview between Rolling Stone journalist Constance Sack (Malin Akerman) and Stacee inadvertently leads to heartache and Sherrie swallows her pride to dance at The Venus Club owned by Justice (Mary J Blige).

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Rock Of Ages opens with an exuberant mash-up of Night Ranger and David Lee Roth.

The cast have a ball, not least Brand whose accent wanders the length of the British Isles as his co-stars hit the high notes on Any Way You Want It, Every Rose Has Its Thorn and I Want To Know What Love Is.

Hough is adorable as a naive gal from the Midwest and she harmonises beautifully with Boneta.

Cruise embraces the spirit of Axl Rose in his scenes, sparing us only a few blushes in a jewel-encrusted dragon-shaped codpiece and leather chaps.

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It’s a pity that a show-stopping duet on Glee overshadows Hough and Boneta’s climactic rendition of the same song.

Evidently there just aren’t enough rabble-rousing classics from the rock pantheon to go around.

By Damon Smith


Released: June 13 (UK & Ireland), 123 mins