The post is a review of the film Rock of Ages and its soundtrack.
In theatres now is a film based on Rock of Ages, a jukebox musical comedy. By “jukebox”, I mean that the songs featured were not written for the musical, but are already hit songs. Rock of Ages tells the story of Drew (Diego Boneta) and Sherrie (Julianne Hough, who also co-starred in last year’s Footloose remake) and how they ultimately get together after a number of hurdles with a few subplots in between involving an ensemble cast, to a soundtrack of rock hits from the 80’s. I saw the Rock of Ages musical about 9 months ago with the Australian cast. It was quite an enjoyable experience. It had great songs and was surprisingly funny. Like most musicals, the story was basic, but the songs are there to enhance the moments. When I heard a film adaptation was coming, I was stoked to say the least. Did it live up to my expectations?
The film adaptation makes quite a few changes – with characters, musical numbers and plot lines added, subtracted or simply fiddled with. Some of these changes are good, while others are bad. The hilarious Regina, Franz and Hertz unfortunately got cut in favour of a larger role for the mayor and introducing his wife as the villain. Playing as the wife is Catherine Zeta-Jones, whose performance I didn’t like at all, which is strange because this is the actress that did an amazing job playing Velma in the film adaptation of the musical Chicago. Her role in the story seems a bit copied from Footloose. Russell Brand was perfect to play Lonny, but it’s a shame that character becomes a lot less utilised. He no longer narrates, which is a shame because the moments in the musical where the fourth wall were broken were some of the most memorable. I do like that the Stacee Jaxx character was given a larger role, and I liked his subplot with the reporter. Stacee Jaxx’s manager was also given a bigger role, and the film made good use of his screen time.
I was fairly sceptical when I heard that Tom Cruise was not only playing Stacee Jaxx, but co-starring alongside the main protagonists. Tom Cruise had never sung before, but he really dedicated himself to this role. For many months prior to filming, Cruise trained 5 hours a day to sing with assistance by Axl Rose’s vocal coach. Strangely enough, and this is not an insult to the movie or the rest of the ensemble cast, but Tom Cruise’s performances are the highlights of the movie. You will have to see it to believe it. His singing voice is actually quite good and he stays very well in character.
As I said before, I didn’t like Zeta-Jones performance as the mayor’s wife, and the leading lovers are not bad, but could’ve done a better job as they are the leads. It might be the script those two are working with, or they may not simply be strong actors (I haven’t seen Julianne Hough in Footloose, so I can’t be sure about her). The rest of the cast, most of whom I’ve already mentioned, are pretty good. In addition there is very a welcome presence of 30 Rock’s Alec Baldwin as Dennis Dupree and Mary J. Blige as the owner of a strip club.
Unfortunately, the script wasn’t written in a way that truly makes the cast standout, especially the two young leads. Tom Cruise seems immune to this, with his flawless performance. The jokes aren’t as funny as the musical. As a love story, the best moments are during musical numbers, with the only real connection between the leads felt during “Waiting for a Girl Like You”. Those are the reasons you watch a musical, rather than the script. It is the most clichéd love story ever, but it’s just there to fit the musical numbers together. Rock hits from the 80’s were a lot of fun, and that successfully transcends into this film.
The film adaptation of Rock of Ages is pretty good. A friend of mine agrees with me that the musical was much better, but we both liked this version nonetheless. Don’t think that you have to have seen the musical, or even know the songs featured, to enjoy this film. While the film doesn’t capture the same hilarity and energy of the musical, it is still a lot of fun and is worth seeing and I’d love to watch it again. There are great songs and great performances, and I challenge you to not enjoy Tom Cruise’s Stacee Jaxx. If you haven’t seen the musical, that’s even more of a reason to watch it, while you wait for the essential purchase of the recording of the musical to be released (one would hope), or better yet, the actual musical being performed in your area. If you hate the music featured, then you should give it a miss, but that would be the only reason not to watch it. I give Rock of Ages 3.5/5.
Just like the film, there are changes to the soundtrack that I liked and some I didn’t like. There were also some that made no difference to me at all. Most disappointingly cut is Europe’s “The Final Countdown”. The ending with “Don’t Stop Believin’” actually made me feel a bit cheated. It’s a lot shorter than the amazing version from the musical and also lacks the energy. I felt cheated because the film actually builds up to this finale. If you haven’t seen the musical this won’t be a problem at all most likely. I liked the addition of “Paradise City”, “Rock Me Like a Hurricane” and “Pour Some Sugar On Me”, all well sung by Tom Cruise. His version of “Wanted Dead or Alive” is much better than the musical version. A surprising highlight is the duet with Cruise and Malin Akerman (who played the reporter) in “I Want to Know What Love Is”. The shortened version of “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” is nothing compared to the extraordinary version in the musical.
While not as energetic as the soundtrack to the musical, that’s not saying the performances on this CD has no life. Most of what’s here is pretty good, some a lot better than the songs on the musical and creates a fantastic vibe when you listen to it. The same recommendations I gave to the film can be applied here. The same rating of 3.5/5, is what I give the Rock of Ages soundtrack, though I also recommend you check out the musical’s CD as well.
Here is the tracklisting, with the songs in bold my favourites.
- 1. “Paradise City” – Tom Cruise
2. “Sister Christian” / “Just Like Paradise” / “Nothin’ But A Good Time” – Julianne Hough, Diego Boneta, Russell Brand, Alec Baldwin
3. “Juke Box Hero” / “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” – Diego Boneta, Alec Baldwin, Russell Brand, Julianne Hough
4. “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” – Catherine Zeta-Jones
5. “Waiting For A Girl Like You” – Diego Boneta, Julianne Hough
6. “More Than Words” / “Heaven” – Julianne Hough, Diego Boneta
7. “Wanted Dead Or Alive” – Tom Cruise, Julianne Hough
8. “I Want To Know What Love Is” – Tom Cruise, Malin Akerman
9. “I Wanna Rock” – Diego Boneta
10. “Pour Some Sugar On Me” – Tom Cruise
11. “Harden My Heart” – Julianne Hough, Mary J. Blige
12. “Shadows of the Night” / “Harden My Heart” – Mary J. Blige, Julianne Hough
13. “Here I Go Again” – Diego Boneta, Paul Giamatti, Julianne Hough, Mary J. Blige, Tom Cruise,
14. “Can’t Fight This Feeling” – Russell Brand, Alec Baldwin
15. “Any Way You Want It” – Mary J. Blige, Constantine Maroulis, Julianne Hough
16. “Undercover Love” (original song) – Diego Boneta
17. “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” – Julianne Hough, Diego Boneta, Tom Cruise, Mary J. Blige
18. “Rock You Like A Hurricane” – Julianne Hough, Tom Cruise
19. “We Built This City” / “We’re Not Gonna Take It” – Russell Brand / Catherine Zeta-Jones
20. “Don’t Stop Believin’”- Julianne Hough, Diego Boneta, Tom Cruise, Alec Baldwin, Russell Brand, Mary J. Blige