Starring Julianne Hough, Diego Boneta, Tom Cruise, Russell Brand, Paul Giamatti, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Malin Akerman, Alec Baldwin, Mary J. Blige, Bryan Cranston, Will Forte and Kevin Nash. Directed by Adam Shankman.
This was one of the most bizarre experiences I've had at the movies in a while.
Adam Shankman demonstrated before he can translate a Broadway musical to the big screen with Hairspray, but whatever chops he showed there are missing here. The first couple minutes started out fine. Julianne Hough is small-town girl Sherrie, on her way to L.A. to become a singer, and on the bus she starts singing "Sister Christian" and the other people on the bus join in. It's a weird, cheesy moment, and I thought we'd be in good hands.
But then we go to the Bourbon Room where Drew (Diego Boneta) and Lonny (Russell Brand) are working and singing "Ain't Lookin' for Nothing But a Good Time" and the song is just betrayed by the movie. The editing's bad, the lip-syncing's bad, the song itself has no lift, and it didn't pull me in at all. And presiding over the Bourbon Room is Denny (a weirdly miscast Alec Baldwin). Sherrie and Drew meet cute and then we're stuck following their puppy-loving High School Musical 2 romance, their cheesy Disney Channel bubble-gum soft-rock pairing that just made me embarrassed.
My jaw was open at how bad this movie was for the first 45 minutes or so. I was stunned, just amazed in disbelief at what this movie was doing. Why is Chicago's sexy Catherine Zeta-Jones playing the uptight Tipper Gore villain? Why is her number "Hit Me with Your Best Shot" in a church? Why are the wigs on Brand and Baldwin so bad?
But then Tom Cruise shows up as tortured rock god Stacee Jaxx. He throws himself completely into the role, and his "Wanted Dead or Alive" is infused with more soulful defiance than Bon Jovi ever thought of injecting into that song. Cruise nails it, and I got those movie-magic chills.
And after that, every time Cruise wasn't on screen, I was counting the seconds until he was on screen again. I finally stopped doing that around Rock of Ages' only successful non-Cruise number, when Mary J. Blige helps turn "Anyway You Want It" into an empowering anthem for strippers.
Others that came out unscathed were Malin Akerman, whom I thought had good comedic chemistry with Cruise as a Rolling Stone reporter who falls for Jaxx, and Paul Giamatti as Jaxx's sleazy manager.
But scathed, very scathed, are our two leads Hough and Boneta. Hough's weak, but Boneta is awful, a black hole of charisma that just made me resent him every time he was on screen. How did this guy get cast? This should do for him what Xanadu did for Michael Beck.
Why the heck are Foreigner, REO Speedwagon and Warrant on this soundtrack?
So I couldn't in good conscience recommend it to anyone, and yet I hope Cruise gets nominated for Best Supporting Actor for this come award-season.