Rock of Ages (2012)

If only life was played to the music of Def Leppard, then all girls would feel the need to pour some sugar on me. If you know what I mean.

This movie tells the story of small town girl Sherrie (Julianne Hough) and city boy Drew (Diego Boneta), 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, Joan Jett, Journey, Foreigner, Bon Jovi, Night Ranger, REO Speedwagon, Pat Benatar, Twisted Sister, Poison, Whitesnake, and more.

I’ve never been a big fan of the 80’s but from time to time, I’ll find myself rocking out to a couple of hair metal tunes like “Cherry Pie”, “Pour Some Sugar On Me”, and plenty of others. So the idea of having a musical taking place around that era and focusing on that music, didn’t really have me reaching out for my “nostalgia money” but hey, nostalgia isn’t all that bad.

Director Adam Shankman is a guy who knows how to do musicals and bring out the most energy in them. Everything looks so colorful, the dance numbers have people running all over the place while pulling off some neat Michael Jackson-like moves, the editing is choppy but gives the film this frantic feel to it, and a hell of a lot of camp to be had here as well. I mean whenever anybody talks about the 80’s, you can’t get past the fact that everything in that era was just so corny and goofy, but also, so perfect for that time period. That aspect is what this film plays off of and I think Shankman did a pretty damn good job recreating this era to the point of where I felt like I actually was watching a story in the 80’s, not just a dramatization on what might have been.

But if you’re going to see this film, you’re not going to be bothered with the camp of purty colors that are on display. Nope. You’re definitely going to be seeing this film because you love 80’s music, or just music in general and if that is the case, then this is a perfect fit for your music loving heart. Every time the film would start to get lame and focus on its “story”, a kick-ass musical number would just come right in to bring my attention back onto the screen, get my feet tapping, and simulate all of drum parts for each and every song. Everybody in the theater that I was with, kept looking at me but I didn’t care because I just could not help myself once people starting belting out lyrics to “Hit Me With Your Best Shot”, “I Wanna Rock”, and even, yes, “I Want to Know What Love Is” (hey, don’t judge that song can get to you, man). Some of the songs aren’t used in the right context here and some even weren’t made yet by the time that this film takes place in, but either way, I could not stop rocking out and I came to realize that the 80’s was a pretty cool time for music. Never thought I’d be saying that.

The problem with this film is that whenever people aren’t jamming out to some choice tracks, everything starts to get boring and terribly dull. The center story, that the rest of the film takes place around, is beyond cliché where we see a young girl come all the way to Hollywood to be a huge singer, only to fall in love with another young, up-and-comer. Boring! This is something we have all seen done before and nothing else is really changed here with the exception that this love is surrounded by 80’s tracks, but even they couldn’t get my head past the weak-ass story. I actually think I dozed off a couple of times, only to be awoken by the loud, thunderous sounds of the music that would bring all of the fun this movie needed.

The film also doesn’t have much to say about the 80’s, let alone the music that took over this decade. Maybe I was going for something more than what I really needed from a musical like this but I think that the film could have done more with it’s whole 80’s premise, rather than just showing us how cool it was. It would have been a nice mixture of Rock Star and Hairspray, and even though that may not sound so wickedly cool and fun, it still would have offered more insight to its decade than this film did. Also, 2 hours and 4 minutes is sort of pushing it a little too long, especially when you have a musical that’s just strictly for the 80’s crowd.

What really made this film such a blast though, aside from the 80’s tracks, was the strange ensemble that came out believable and made this film a whole lot better. Malin Akerman is delightful and sexy as the “Rolling Stone” reporter that gets involved with a big-time rocker; Mary J. Blige may not be the best actress out there but she sure as hell can sing, which that’s all this film needs; Paul Giamatti is slimy and slightly evil as Paul Gill, but who else could play that type of character; Catherine Zeta-Jones is over-the-top as Patricia Whitmore, the wife of the Mayor, but is entertaining and has one sick-ass dance number that brought me back to her Chicago days; and Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand both have a lot of fun with each other as the two club owners, but I think needed more time on-screen as well. As for our little tikes in the leads, Julianne Hough and Diego Boneta, they are delightful to watch but kind of get blown out of the water by this phenomenal supporting cast. Mainly, one in particular.

Tom Cruise as hair metal icon Stacee Jaxx, was not only a perfect bit of casting for Mr. Cruise here but also the best part of this whole movie. Lately, Cruise has been taking more and more roles that show him sort of making fun of his own image and this is one of those roles where he gets to play around a bit with that image, but also be able to release his inner rocker. His voice may sound a little too weak for some of these songs that he performs, but it doesn’t matter because the guy takes over the screen whenever he’s on and also has a pretty credible character arc to him as well. It’s nothing like Magnolia, but it’s still the only arc for any character in this movie and it’s used well because it’s Tom Cruise dammit! Honestly, Tom Cruise has one last, big Oscar for him somewhere and even though it may not be this role, I know it’s still coming up soon regardless.

Consensus: Rock of Ages may have a weak story that makes the era its portraying more dull than it has any right to be, but the non-stop 80’s tracks are filled with energy and fun, and feature some great performances from this impressive ensemble cast of characters, especially an intense Tom Cruise.



  1. Many thanks for the kind words on my review good sir. i totally agree that the story isn’t what makes this film enjoyable. Great review. Being someone who’s just starting to put my thoughts regarding film online, i hope to be able to analyze and write as well as you. Cheers!!

  2. I also thought Tom Cruise looked like Katie Holmes/Suri in this movie with his long hair. 😀 I liked his scene with Malin Akerman: “I Want to Know What Love Is.” That was funny. Enjoyed reading your review. 🙂

  3. Good review Dan and I pretty much agree with all you said esp about Cruise. Again here he shines and at 50 come July 3 201e he has matured. I still say his best acting to date is the Vietnam aftermath Ron Kovic biopic “Born on the Fouth of July”. Cruise was nominated but lost to Daniel Day lewis foir My left Foot. People didn’t accept Cruise as a dramatic actor. Its high time they did. He’s still very good in action as well.

    • Thanks! I liked him in that movie too, but I think it was the movie itself that took him away from achieving the type of dramatic height he could pull off. Still, great role for him and alright movie to boot.

  4. In the 80s I used to have a downstairs neighbor who would crank up “Pour Some Sugar on Me” to the MAX every time he closed down a bar and came home with some chick in tow. At 3 in the morning. Every weekend. That is all I have to say about Def Leppard. 😀

  5. Dan-
    Great review as always. I saw it this weekend and had pretty similar takes on it. The cast definitely made up for some weaker production issues. Tom Cruise was pretty fantastic as Stacee Jaxx. I’m glad you pointed out Malin Ackerman as well. She defintiely held her own against him. Check out my review if you get a chance.

  6. Good review. I’ve just seen the film and I must say I had a good time watching it even if it doesn’t bring anything new to the genre. My only problem was that Tom Cruise doesn’t get enough screen time and I remember one scene in the trailer that is not in the film!! Booo!!! 🙂

    • Thanks Erik! I think I know what scene you’re talking about but I loved Cruise being in this film so some of Cruise is better than no Cruise.

  7. Great review of this, Dan! Yeah, I felt quite similarly in that it was a bit dull in parts . . . I found myself bored, thinking it was too long, checking my phone from time to time. But I did enjoy the music as well! I loved Shankman’s take on Hairspray, so I had a bit higher expectations for Rock of Ages and felt short-changed. But oh well . . . Tom Cruise was hilarious as Stacie Jaxx and the supporting cast really helped the film out.

    • Thanks Kristin! It was fun in some parts, dull in others, but it mainly kept me entertained pretty much the whole time and I think that’s what I liked most about this flick.

  8. I agree that between the music things got pretty dull. I definitely hated this movie a lot more, despite my intense love of 80s music. Cruise’s performance and the weak story really tanked the movie for me. I thought Cruise was incredibly robotic and not very interesting to watch.

  9. Thank you for another excellent post. The place else may just anybody get that type of information in such an ideal method of writing? I have a presentation next week, and I am at the search for such information.

  10. I actually am going to see this one. I love musicals. Everyone that I know that has seen it says the Cruise is great. I kind of like the 80’s music. Thanks, nice job.

  11. Agreed! It’s the kind of movie that’s more fun than it has a right to be, if that makes any sense. LOL. 😀

    I agree with you, too. This isnt the role for Cruise’s oscar. But its coming one of these days. I would hate to be a nominee the next time HE gets nominated. LOL

  12. You bring up an interesting point. For all of his success, Cruise has only been nominated 3 times and never won an Oscar. It probably will happen when he’s like in his 60s and everyone feels like it’s about time like they did with Paul Newman. Personally I think he could have won for Magnolia. He was great in that.

  13. YOU HAD ME IN THE FIRST PARAGRAPH !! Now, that I never watch TV that isn’t DVR’ed, skipping all commercials- I miss what movies are out. I will have to see this despite Tom Cruise. Yes, he can act- but to me he is still the guy jumping on Oprah’s weird couch. Best movie lines from TalledegaNights- “Help me Tom Cruise! Tom Cruise, use your witchcraft on me to get the fire off me!” and “Help me, Oprah Winfrey”. Now, I am going downstairs to rewatch Talledega Nights, Elf, and The Wedding Singer. Thanks for the review.

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