‘Rock of Ages’ is the newest kid on the jukebox musical block. With a threadbare plot hanging together some hit rock tunes it’s very much a movie full of spectacle and high energy songs. Whether that’s enough to engage audiences is another matter as most from this genre forget to tell a good story. Spicing events with 1980’s outfits and music can only go so far with ‘Rock of Ages’ barely entertaining even if it may find a willing audience of hard-core head-bangers.
Sherrie (Julianne Hough) and Drew (Diego Boneta) are a couple working at the Bourbon Room. A magnet for trend-setters, the likes of owners Lonny (Russell Brand), Dennis (Alec Baldwin) seem keen on indulging in sex, drugs and rock and roll. When glam metal rock superstar Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise) arrives, the stage is set for musical and physical excess with the party always staying in full swing.
‘Rock of Ages’ is like a Hollywood version of karaoke. Instead of singing in a bar or performing in front of a music video they make movie versions instead. Whilst few have made a memorable mark it’s doubtful this will. Based on a Broadway musical it betrays its stage origins with a glacially paced script and very predictable story. One knows the course events will take with the bland characters highlighting the lack of inspiration and dynamic flair.
Not that the dance sequences are forgettable as they are superbly performed. Some of the rock tunes are great although having an original soundtrack is usually more interesting. The setting is fun with the decade of excess reasonably well rendered. It’s a shame everything is so sanitised in the usual glossily commercial fashion. The actors have tons of fun but only Cruise leaves any impression with his showy performance.
As musical movies go ‘Rock of Ages’ is a bit of a toothless tiger. It could have been more honest in is depiction of the era with the cast looking a bit too perfect for this mediocre tribute to a golden era of American rock.
Rating out of 10: 4
The track record of singers acting in films isn’t very good. Whilst some have been top of the pops with music, many have scrapped the bottom of the barrel with some appalling thespian efforts. One of the few who has made a success of both has been Cher, who has added the fabled moniker of ‘Oscar winner’ to her resume. Burlesque may not win her another gold statue, although it wins in the production stakes with the musical numbers making of the most of the legendary performer’s many talents.
Departing the sleepy town in which she lives, Ali (Christina Aguilera) arrives in Los Angeles. Dreaming of becoming a dancer, she accepts a waitressing job at The Burlesque Lounge in the hope of achieving her goal. Run by Tess (Cher) and her assistant Sean (Stanley Tucci), it is on hard times and needs someone to re-energise it. When they discover Ali’s dancing and vocal abilities, they think they’ve found the answer to the club’s salvation. Becoming adept at the art of Burlesque, Ali navigates the demands of the job through a mine-field of personal hardship and glittering delights.
It’s just as well Burlesque allows plenty of opportunity for Aguilera and Cher to sing as it doesn’t have much else going for it. As one would expect the stage sequences are dazzling – full of energy and toe-tapping tunes that should raise a smile. Sadly there aren’t enough of them and their infrequency prevents the potential for continual camp fun. Unwisely director Steven Antin tries to focus on its clichéd story – a big mistake given how dreadfully written it is with dialogue its leads must have been embarrassed to mutter.
Unlike Cabaret or Mamma Mia!, Burlesque’s songs fail to fully fit its narrative. They feel like random moments inserted in order to break up its turgid yarn. This poor flow extends to the acting with Aguilera’s performance amateurish at best with only Tucci having the most fun with the silly script. Thankfully the staging and music is up to par otherwise it would have been a dead loss with the cinematography’s soft focus lens showing Cher and Aguilera in a flattering light even if their ill-fitting wigs do not.
Burlesque isn’t flash by any means, although if one is in the mood for some lyrical frolics then this may do the trick. Picture it as a Walt Disney version of Showgirls and you get the idea with its’ hoped for fun moments few and far between.
Rating out of 10: 4