Yeah, “Monster Ballads” is blasting out here on my iPod. And I’m not ashamed to admit it. I’ll bet I’m among thousands of viewers who just saw “Rock of Ages” and simply had to listen to some more 1980s-era tunes.
Based on the stage play, the movie begins in Los Angeles during 1987. I was surprised that it starts off so quickly with music: “Sister Christian” is a natural fit for the female lead of Sherrie Christian (Julianne Hough, “Footloose”), who has taken a bus to L.A. to pursue a singing career. It doesn’t take long for Sherrie to find out that the big city can be a cruel place indeed.
But Sherrie meets a busboy at the Bourbon Room nightclub. Drew Boley (Diego Boneta, television’s “90210”) begs his boss, Dennis Dupree (Alec Baldwin), to hire Sherrie as a waitress. So the dewy-eyed Sherrie ends up meeting rock idol Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise), who is at the Bourbon to say goodbye to his band, Arsenal, and begin a solo career.
Dennis has bigger worries than his new waitress: He’s drowning in debt and is also under political attack by the mayor (Bryan Cranston) and his anti-rock wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones), who want to close down the club. His loyal assistant (Russell Brand) is there to lend support and add a comic touch of sarcasm to the situation.
Let’s face it: This is all about sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll — in a PG-13 way. (Believe me when I tell you this movie pushes the limits of the rating to the nth degree). It’s fun in the way that musicals should be fun, with the songs as the not-so-underlying reason for the skinny plot lines.
Cruise is a delight. He swaggers into his role, channeling Axl Rose and any number of heavy-metal rockers whose eccentricities and bad-boy lifestyles made as many headlines as their music. (Whoever designed his outrageous codpiece, tattoos and leather pants should earn an Oscar for costume design. The ensemble is completely over the top and enhances the ever-boozing, ever-lustful character).
The rest of the ensemble is enjoyable, too, with Paul Giamatti as the scheming manager (a Faustian touch) and Mary J. Blige as the owner of a strip club. Zeta-Jones forgets she’s supposed to be playing an American a couple of times, but she has the voice to carry off her singing role.
That’s it. I have to go find my Journey greatest hits CD now.
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“ROCK OF AGES”
Running time: Two hours
Rated: PG-13 for sexual situations, foul language, drug abuse and violence