Studio:New Line Year: 2012 Cast: Julianne Hough, Diego Boneta, Tom Cruise, Alec Baldwin, Russell Brand, Paul Giamatti, Malin Akerman, Mary J. Blige, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Bryan Cranston, Will Forte, Eli Roth, T.J. Miller Director: Adam Shankman Release Date: October 09, 2012 Rating: R for some sexual content Run Time: 02h:16m:14s Genre(s): musical, comedy
"And like a flaming dipshit you believed her, dumped your jock boyfriend, ditched town and moved to Hollywood to have a crack at fame and fortune. Am I missing anything?" - Dennis Dupree (Alec Baldwin)
One of the most critically lambasted and dumped-on films of 2012 comes to Blu-Ray with an extended edition (not always a good thing) and after sitting through this choreographed lovefest to big-haired 1980s rock music I have come to one conclusion. Rock of Ages - I liked it. I may be in the minority, but damn it I liked it.
Say it loud, say it proud: recommended.
Movie Grade: B
DVD Grade: A-
I'm not even going to attempt to compare/contrast the Adam Shankman-directed version of Rock of Ages with the Tony-award-winning play for one main reason: I never saw the play. Hell, I didn't even know there WAS a play. I'm sure there are differences and similarities, but that's for someone else to analyze.
What I do know now is it was branded as what is commonly referred to as a "jukebox musical", meaning it's a bunch of unrelated popular songs stitched together loosely to tell a story (see also the successes of Mama Mia!, Million Dollar Quartet, Jersey Boys). What something like Rock of Ages (and its ilk) really exists as is an opportunity for theater-goers to sing along to songs they know and have fun doing it while a simple narrative is played out on stage. Like it or hate it there is clearly a rabid audience for entertainment like this, and while it is probably the red-headed stepchild of so-called legitimate theater it clearly strikes an unrepentant guilty pleasure vibe in many.
And I guess I'm one of them because I really liked the movie version of Rock of Ages.
Set in 1987 Los Angeles - primarily the Sunset Strip and the fictional rock club The Bourbon Room - Rock of Ages is the featherweight story of wannabe singer Sherri (ridiculously cute Julianne Hough) who arrives by bus from Oklahoma to find her way to stardom. Hunky young Bourbon Room barback and wannabe singer Drew (Diego Boneta) lands her a waitress gig, sparks fly, boy-gets-girl/boy-loses-girl/boy-gets-girl. In the midst of the stock romance is legendary rock star Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise), playing the quintessential self-absorbed asshole rocker, set to make a big appearance at the Bourbon while a group of uptight religious-right types led by Patricia Whitmore (Catherine Zeta-Jones) works to close down the club. There's also struggling club owner Dupree (Alec Baldwin), his comedic relief manager Lonny (Russell Brand), Jaxx's ponytailed manager Paul (Paul Giamatti), worldly-wise strip club owner Justice (Mary J. Blige) and bespectacled/big-haired Rolling Stone reporter Constance Sack (Malin Akerman). Everything and everyone in Rock of Ages is very simplistic and one-dimensional, but that's tolerable because the meat-and-potatoes here is the way the period tunes (Def Leppard, Night Ranger, Journey, Bon Jovi, etc) serve as expository narrative tools. That either will work for you or it won't.
As expected characters break out in song (even Alec Baldwin and Paul Giamatti, however briefly) at a moment's notice, typically consisting of mash-ups of a couple of tunes at a time. The production numbers are elaborately choreographed (nice work, Mia Michaels) and even when the vocal histrionics go a little too far (I'm looking at you, Mary J. Blige) the sequences are jubilantly excessive. The strip club setting of Journey's Any Way You Want It - with strippers keeping time by banging their high heels together - is just one example. Even Tom Cruise - generally a movie deal breaker for me, as I just don't "like" the guy (sorry, Tom) - does a fun rendition of Bon Jovi's Wanted Dead Or Alive, and his rock star swagger/stage presence seems authentic, at least within the confines of a musical. And not that I hear it that often these days but REO Speedwagon's I Can't This Feeling will never be the same again.
I've read a bunch of reviews of Rock of Ages since its theatrical release, and very few were complimentary. I guess this is an easy target for a number of reasons, and it certainly straddles a dangerous barbwire fence of entertainment. Tom Cruise as a rock star in a karaoke-style musical? I was braced for the worse and came away with an unexpected appreciation of Shankman's bigscreen version. The thing is this doesn't try to be deep or thought-provoking or even realistic. It's a sing-along musical featuring rock tunes from 1980s.
Is this lightweight? Sure is. Is it dumb fun? Indeed it is. Haters gonna hate. Not me, though.
NOTE: The extended cut (on the BD only) runs about 13 minutes longer than the theatrical cut. Differences change the film from PG-13 to R, though that is somewhat questionable from my viewpoint. A sexy bump-and-grind version of Scorpions' Rock You Like A Hurricane - with Julianne Hough (in her undies) and Tom Cruise (on a stripper pole) - is the notable inclusion on the extended cut.
You don't have to like the film to appreciate Warner's gorgeously colorful 2.40:1 AVC-encoded 1080p transfer. This one is about flawless on every count, consisting of the sort of thing one would expect from a transfer that is a veritable "eyepopper": from the vivid colors to the rock solid black levels. But it is the remarkable level of image clarity/detail that impressed me the most, with the ability to make out minute details in elements like hair and fabric. Easily one of the best transfers of the year on BD and reason enough to check this release out. Wow!
Audio options on the BD consist of a single DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. This mix is appropriately bombastic for the frequent musical numbers - where the deep bass really kicks in - but falls a little short on remaining consistent with dialogue. Voice clarity was sometimes an issue for me, and I found myself frequently juggling the volume during the non-musical passages. But when the tunes kick in all is good. The SD is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 surround, with dubbed options in French or Spanish.
Warner has issued Rock of Ages as a slip-cased 2-disc set - one BD (containing both the 02h:16m:14s extended and 2h:03m:16s theatrical cut) and one SD (theatrical cut only) - as well as an insert for an Ultraviolet download. Extras - all of which are fairly lightweight - on the Blu consist of Rock of Ages: Legends of the Sunset Strip (21m:56s) with Brett Michaels serving as host for a conversation with the bands featured in the film while The Stories We Sing (12m:53s) has Michaels bookending a segment where we learn the origins of songs like Sister Christian (which is actually a pretty funny story). Defining A Decade is a multi-part category made up of eight short segments that looks at various aspects of the production (origins, choreography, recreating the Sunset Strip in Miami, etc) all of which feature an intro by Diego Boneta and Julianne Hough. The eight segments are: a superfluous Intro (:25s), The 80's Look (03m:59s), It's All About The Moves (07m:37s), Stripping Miami (04m:38s), The Tease (04m:12s), If You Build It, They Will Rock It (03m:02s), Connection To The Music (04m:32s) and So It Started In A Bar (07m:12s). Anyway You Want It (02m:40s) is billed as music video, but it's really just a promo piece for the film, while the Visit Florida spot (:30s) is a tourism commercial for the Sunshine State. Also included is Musical Numbers, which allows quick access to the twenty musical numbers featured in the film.
The SD repeats the Defining A Decade set of featurettes, the Any Way You Want It promo video and the Visit Florida commercial while a stab at uniqueness includes a frothy Def Leppard: Live At The Premiere (11m:33s) segment.