First things first: Tom Cruise is phenomenal. Putting aside Scientology, rants, and ridiculous roles, Cruise is a great actor. For further proof, watch him as megastar Stacee Jaxx in Rock of Ages, an otherwise painful musical that’s like Glee… except with terrible wigs.
Based on the Broadway show featuring music from classic hair metal bands of the ’80s, Rock of Ages tells the story of two starry-eyed kids (Diego Boneta and Dancing with the Stars’ hoofer Julianne Hough) who pursue singing careers and fall in love while working at the Sunset Strip’s rock ’n’ roll mecca, the Bourbon Room, circa 1987. Complications arise when a weaselly mayor (Bryan Cranston) and his Bible-thumping wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones) vow to shut the venue down and bankrupt longtime owner Dennis Dupree (Alec Baldwin). To save the club, Dupree asks rock god Stacee Jaxx to perform one last gig, aaaaaand… you know the rest.
Rest assured, I like and have great patience for “stupid.” However, Rock of Ages is “stupid” with a “wink.” It’s practically already counting the money it’s going to make on the cult film circuit, which is never going to happen because in order for a film to become a cult film, it has to take itself seriously. Rock of Ages—with the exception of balls-out performances from Cruise and Hough—doesn’t.
Besides expecting a film that’s comedically tone deaf, viewers should also prepare to wince whenever the insanely miscast Baldwin appears on-screen. The same goes for the normally amazing Cranston, the always sorta “meh” Zeta-Jones, and crowd appearances from decrepit former rock stars (such as REO Speedwagon’s Kevin Cronin, WHICH MADE ME SO SAD).
And while the singing is capable enough, what did the human race do to deserve a mashup of “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and “We Built This City”? Because whatever it was, we should appeal.
BUT. Tom Cruise. Amazing. He’s not even all that believable as a rock star, and yet? He is just so fucking into his character, you can’t take your eyes off him. Rent it on DVD, watch Tom, and fast-forward through everything else. Oh, and rent Xanadu while you’re at it. That’s the way you do a cult musical.