Every Rose Has Its Thorn

Rock of Ages (2012)
Chick Flick Rating: ♥ ♥ (2/5)
Film Rating: ★ ½ (1.5/5)
Boyfriend friendly: Yeah, def (Leppard).

Let me tell you a little story: When I was a freshman in college, I began writing my first musical, called I Wanna Rock. It was set in the 80’s in a run-down NYC night club that was on the brink of foreclosure and the soundtrack consisted of all 80’s classics such as Here I Go Again, Hit Me With Your Best Shot, Don’t Stop Believing, We Built This City, Shadows of the Night, etc. Having such a hardcore infatuation with all things 80’s, this quickly became my passion project so when the script was near completion, I began showing it to a few of my privileged classmates – hoping that one of them was actually the granddaughter of Hal Prince or something. None of them were, so I shelved the script figuring I’d just wait until I met the right person. Cut to 2 years later, when I am living in London, and I get a letter from one of those classmates. The letter is enclosed with a press release for a new musical opening on Broadway, called Rock of Ages, which is set in the 80’s in a run-down Hollywood night club that is on the brink of foreclosure and the soundtrack consists of all 80’s classics such as Here I Go Again, Hit Me With Your Best Shot, Don’t Stop Believing, We Built This City, Shadows of the Night, etc. I may have been across the pond, but I’m pretty sure my scream that night rocked all of Broadway like a hurricane.

A year later, after conducting hours of stealthy sleuthing to make sure none of the people that read my script were in any way affiliated with this production and finally concluding that it was just a bizarre coincidence, I went to see Rock of Ages on Broadway. And I had a ton of fun. In fact, I was actually relieved because I liked it so much. Of course, mine would have been better – (How could they forget about Jessie’s Girl?!) – but it was high energy, really funny, and they gave out free lighters to wave in the air with every program. I left the theater with a healed heart and an idea for a completely new musical (whose premise I will not reveal to a single soul). Unfortunately, the Rock of Ages movie adaptation was missing the energy, the funny, and the free lighters, and my wounded heart ached all over again while watching it.

It probably comes as no surprise that I am a huge musical goer. There is perhaps nothing in the world that I enjoy more. However, I have never been a huge fan of musicals on screen. With the exception of Grease and Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s “Once More With Feeling” episode, on-screen musicals generally feel very detached and just out of place. I mean, I don’t even really like Glee. But then, a few years ago, Adam Shankman came out with Hairspray – which totally blew away my expectations – and I thought, “Yes! There is a director who finally gets it.” So when I heard he was directing Rock of Ages, I was fairly confident that my baby was in good hands. Wrong. In fairness to him, I think the film was in trouble before it even got to his desk – mainly due to a script that took out some of the best scenes in the musical to make room for weaker characters, flatter jokes, and a bunch of big names that give small performances.

In the stage version, Drew – an aspiring rockstar by day, Bourbon Room busboy by night – is the lead character, but whoever it is that plays him in the movie isn’t strong enough or interesting enough and the focus quickly shifts to his love interest, Sherrie (Julianne Hough): a small-town girl living in a lonely world who took the midnight train bus from Oklahoma to seek some Hollywood fame. Hough is made for musicals, but her Sherrie was a little too sugary for me. Although the Broadway version is light-hearted and fun, the characters are gritty and real, and Sherrie makes some selfish choices to further her career (i.e. having groupie bathroom sex with rock god Stacee Jaxx). In the movie, any mistakes Sherrie makes are simply written off as a big misunderstanding. Catherine Zeta-Jones, who generally does no wrong in my eyes, actually disappointed me as the Mayor’s determined wife who wants to clean up Sunset Strip. Her acting was fine, but her rendition of Hit Me With Your Best Shot was not all that jazz, if you catch my drift. To be honest, I’ve performed karoake versions of that song better while drunk off my ass. I never like Alec Baldwin, so I won’t even bore you with that tirade. But most upsetting was that my favorite character in the musical, Regina (pronounced like vagina but with a ‘R’), a birkenstock-wearing Berkely grad devoted to saving the Bourbon Room, was cut out of the movie completely to make room for Russell Brand and Malin Akerman. Brand, whose sole purpose in life must be prancing around like an unbathed unicorn that shouts British expletives whenever he gets the urge, made me laugh exactly once. Akerman, on the other hand, was pretty adorbs as a Rolling Stone reporter in tortoise-rimmed glasses, and even though I was convinced her rendition of Foreigner’s I Want To Know What Love Is was totally autotuned, I may be wrong because I have since found out that she is the lead singer of a Swedish band, The Petalstones. Hmpf. In my opinion, they should have cut Brand out and had Akerman play the Regina character and a whole lotta better would’ve come from it.

Surprisingly, I really liked Tom Cruise as the Axl Rose-esque rock legend, Stacee Jaxx. I didn’t think I would buy him as a badass all tatted up with guyliner and assless chaps, but he did Def Leppard proud singing Pour Some Sugar On Me. I was also happy that they made his character somewhat redeeming towards the end, cause Jaxx is just a total villain in the stage production. Paul Giamatti, who played Jaxx’s skeevy manager, is always a delight and my only regret is that they didn’t have him sing because I think that could have added some much needed comedy.

Due to my personal attachment to the story and the fact that I’ve seen the musical, my film review might be a little harsher than others. But, I still don’t think I’d recommend the movie even if that weren’t the case. However, if you do get the opportunity to catch the stage show, whether on Broadway or a local production, definitely do that! It’s a really fun premise (if I do say so myself) that just wasn’t conveyed through the film adaptation. Now I just have to start mentally preparing myself for the emotional anguish that is bound to occur when my favorite musical ever, Les Miserables, self combusts in front of my eyes this Christmas. I lost all faith in this movie when I heard they were considering Taylor Swift for Eponine. Then they released the trailer and holy Lord, I know the world disagrees with me, but Anne Hathaway’s I Dreamed A Dream has got to be the weakest performance I have ever heard of that song ever. (And I’ve seen it staged over 15 times, from Broadway, to the West End, to my local middle school). I generally love Anne, but “toned down” my ass. You only tone things down when someone can’t hit the real notes. Hopefully I’m wrong, but I’m convinced the only thing that will save this film is if NPH and Jason Segel have a surprise cameo performance during The Confrontation:

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