The Big Screen: Cruise film throws its hair around, but doesn't rock

By Kevin VaughnJune 21, 2012 

Warner Bros. Pictures was hoping for enormous success with "Rock of Ages."

But the musical starring Tom Cruise as a larger-than-life rock star disappoints, feeling more like a very long episode of "Glee" than an ode to hair metal.

The story isn't all about a bare-chested, pelvic thrusting Cruise (my prayers were answered). There is also a Cinderella story.

Early on in the film we meet Drew Boley (Diego Boneta) and Sherrie Christian (Julianne Hough), who meet adorably on the Sunset Strip, that windy strip of neon lights, nightclubs, stumbling club hoppers, unrealized dreams and famous deaths. Sounds like a thing of dreams, right?

She is a little country, he is a little rock 'n' roll, both dream of stardom.

Back to the (gross) bare-chested, pelvic thrusting Cruise. He plays Stacee Jaxx, an over-inflated rock star modeled loosely on Axl Rose. He has one problem: the neo-Victorian zealot Patricia Whitmore played by the underrated Catherine Zeta-Jones.

Whitmore's husband is seeking the chair for mayor, and she has taken it on by virtue to clean all the scum of the strip once and for all. The parallels between the fight between Tipper Gore and Prince during the Senate hearings about government regulation of music are obvious, but are played down a little too PG to represent accurately (and interestingly) music culture in the late '80s.

The two stories meet; Stacee Jaxx deeply embedded in moral debauchery, Sherrie and Drew well on their way.

The film was directed by a former dancer and choreographer, Adam Shankman, who based it on a popular Broadway show. He has also directed a remake of John Waters' famous "Hairspray" and, coincidentally, a few episodes of "Glee." The subject matter doesn't match his cinematic tastes, infusing more "Glee" than John Waters into a Cinderella story that should be gritty, tasteless and over-indulgent but rather is cutesy, polished and cheesy -- you will find more drama in "Dream Girls" than this.

I had a similar knee-jerk reaction to Julie Taymor's poppy ode to the Beatles "Across the Universe."

No, I'm not as big of a fan of Def Leppard as I am of the Beatles.

I'm not even a fan of music from the 1980s, but it was an interesting time for the music industry, and "Rock of Ages" hardly lives up to the legends.

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