ďRock of AgesĒ
No, true believers, itís not a reference to the old Christian hymn by the same name. Far from it. In fact, the Christians are pretty much vilified and lampooned in this one. But itís not entirely amoral. In fact, at its core itís a sweet little romance, where the characters who find love are enriched by it. Thereís good reason this has been a successful Broadway play. But on the surface, at least, this is an edgy kind of in-your-face hard-rock musical, with plenty of apparent dissolution and bawdy innuendo. But those of us who love popular music, and have for decades, will find a lot of nostalgic resonance.
Itís the 1980ís. Big hair bands. Loud music, brash apparel, and a certain amount ofÖ.attitude. Sherrie (Julianne Hough) is a small-town girl riding the bus from Oklahoma, ready to make her dreams of stardom come true in L.A. She has a lovely singing voice, but, letís face it, well-scrubbed, wholesome, down-home girls were not exactly in high demand during the Hard Rock Era. Sheís so naÔve she allows a supposedly-friendly guy on the street to con her into handling her suitcase for her, in the guise of being helpful, and, of course, he takes off with it. Welcome to the big city. But quickly she meets a nice guy, Drew (Diego Boneta), who also has a beautiful voice, and aspirations of making it big on the rock scene, as well. Except that for now, well, heís just a warehouse grunt at the big nightclub, owned by Dennis Dupree (Alec Baldwin), whose energetic British sidekick is Lonny, the mercurial Russell Brand. And opposing them at every turn is Patricia Whitmore (Catherine Zeta-Jones), along with her uptight, self-righteous band of overdressed church bitties (though their rendition of ďHit Me With Your Best ShotĒ using the church organ as accompaniment was priceless). Oh yes, we will break out into singing and dancing at any moment, and weíll be oh-so-aware of the fine line between parody and homage while we do it.
Now, the coup de grace: Tom Cruise as Stacee Jaxx, the high-powered celebrity rock star with the leather tights and the half-empty whisky bottle, complete with offensive tattoos and a swaggering persona that might be flighty, might be flip, might be stand-offish; or mercurial, menacing, leering, too-casually intimate---you just donít know which celebrity personality is going to pop out of this self-caricatured cultural icon at any given moment. He tries them on like stage outfits, and discards them just as easily. Tom Cruise is sensational in this role. He might even get some award consideration later this year, if people can overcome their preconceived notions. And he can sing.
Despite the apparent edginess of this new-age musical, thereís just something over-the-top exuberant about the whole film that is satisfying to many of us who are aficionados of rock music, especially the 80ís variety, who love that backbeat rhythm, and if itís too loud, well, you might be too old. This one is for the young at heart.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Minister, St. Stephenís Presbyterian Church, Irving, Texas