Rock of Ages **1/2
Rock of Ages, the latest Broadway musical transferred to big-budget, Hollywood Studio celluloid, is two films in one: there’s the good film, which is composed of every extremely proficient, highly energetic, really quite exciting production number (of which, thankfully, there are many), and the painfully clichéd, and surprisingly non-energetic other film, which is composed of all the bits between the production numbers. You know: the talky bits.
Tom Cruise, as Rock God Stacee Jaxx, is definitely the worst offender in the talky bits: he slows things down. He’s made the very indulgent choice of talking incredibly slowly and quietly, as though, perhaps, on mogadon, valium or even LSD or heroin, and no amount of editing around him can help his “dramatic” (rather than singing) scenes: they’re mind-numbingly boring.
The action – a very old-school plot – concerns a pretty girl who comes to Hollywood to pursue her dreams of being a singer. It’s the 80s, and rock – “hard” rock – still rules. Moreover, rock music itself annoys the venal wife of the Los Angeles mayor (played with glee by Catharine Zeta-Jones) to the point that it’s become her obsession to drive the (fictional) Sunset Strip club The Bourbon out of business.
The Bourbon is run by a couple of rock obsessives played by Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand, and they’re the only two who get away with anything approaching enjoyment in the dialogue scenes; Brand is particularly funny. The lead girl and her love interest are played by Julianne Hough and Diego Boneta – neither of whom I’ve encountered before – and they’re lumbered with the least interesting storyline, the worst dialogue and (quite obviously) the least screen experience. Malin Akerman, a gifted comedic actress for whom this could have been a big break, has to spend all her scenes with Cruise, as does Paul Giamatti, playing Jaxx’s manager, and whom, I bet, would never have taken this role had he known how Cruise was going to play his scenes: with almost complete disregard for his fellow actors.
Ironically, when Cruise sings and struts in his production numbers, he is completely believable – and exciting – as a heavy metal superstar. If only he’d spoken in something more animated that an excruciatingly drawn-out mumble, he might have allowed this overlong (123 minute) film to have the snappy, breezy, energised feel of the music scene it so wants to celebrate.