Rock of Ages...

By now, it should be clear from my body of work here at "The State I Am In," that I love musical theater. I think I may just love movie musicals even more, because you can watch them from the comfort of your own home whenever you want, and the production values are usually better. The need for Hollywood star-power sometimes means that the quality of the singing is often less than one typically finds in a live-theater production (I'm looking at you, Pierce Brosnan in Mamma Mia!, or you, Gerard Butler in Phantom of the Opera), but I'm usually willing to overlook that shortcoming.

Hence, it should come as no surprise that I would head out to the movie theater to catch Rock of Ages, especially after I was entertained, but not blown away by the stage version earlier this month. Even then, I was eager to compare it to the film, since I was not impressed with the staging of the version I saw, and thought it would be better with a bigger budget. 

For the most part, I was correct in my suspicion that the movie would be better. The script underwent serious changes from the original, including a complete revision of the story's villain. Instead of foreign real estate developers hungry to turn the Sunset Strip into a shopping mall, the film envisions the Strip under siege by 1980s "Moral Majority" political crusaders, led by Catherine Zeta-Jones. The change, I felt, was a good one, and the shuffling of musical numbers that accompanied it made little impact on the flow of the story. Besides, anyone who has seen the film version of Chicago (for which Zeta-Jones won a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award), knows that Catherine Zeta-Jones was practically made for movie musicals. 

Unfortunately, the main storyline of Rock of Ages, the love story between aspiring singers Sherrie and Drew, was as forgettable as it was in the original stage version. Plus, the song "Oh Sherrie" was cut from the film, which was the entire reason the character was named that in the first place. The producers would have been better off cutting the entire character.

Much more interesting is the relationship between club-owner Dennis Dupree (Alec Baldwin) and his employee Lonny (Russell Brand) who support one another through the difficulties faced by the club and end up finding unexpected love in the process. However, the best part of the entire film is the performance of Tom Cruise, whose dark, nuanced interpretation of rock icon Stacee Jaxx seems like it stepped out of an entirely differently film. Whereas the rest of Rock of Ages is a fluffy, pop confection perfect for light, summer entertainment, Cruise's turn as Stacee is almost disturbing in its intensity. It alone makes the film worth seeing, and it made me want to see a rock bio-pic with Tom Cruise in the lead role. 

I didn't go into Rock of Ages expecting brilliance, and I wasn't disappointed. Still, the film was quite enjoyable, if you manage your expectations properly. Plus, it doesn't hurt if you're a huge fan of movie musicals as a genre...

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