Onstage the ABBA love letter
We have the popularity of "Mamma Mia!" to thank for a much thinner jukebox goof, the tribute to '80s glam, hair, metal and krrrrranggg! known as
This painless but oddly indistinct screen version of the stage show, built around two dozen songs made famous by
The year is 1987; the place is the Bourbon Room on LA's Sunset Strip, whose legendary acts and debaucheries have drawn the ire of the mayor's wife and her clean-it-up! minions. (Catherine Zeta-Jones plays the force of righteousness, who hammers the Pat Benatar standard "Hit Me With Your Best Shot.")
With the club's future threatened, all is riding on Stacee Jaxx (Cruise) and his drawing power. While the club owner (
Soul-sick from a life of pliable groupies and too much eyeliner, Jaxx has consented to an interview with a reporter (
Shankman had much better luck with "Hairspray," a rock-solid stage property (based on John Waters' screenplay) that easily withstood the transfer to the movies. Here, though, Shankman and company are working with tissue paper. And by steering the film away from headlong satiric energy, instead of toward it, the director errs in investing so much "heart" in a show that is only about its own cliches.
Cruise is certainly a sight, and to the degree he's doing his own vocals (which I think he is), he's impressive. Now: Is he right for the role? Is he funny? Not really, and not really. This may be the most enervating yet hypercontrolled portrait of a rock icon (fictional division) ever filmed. Cruise's Jaxx is all attitude and no pacing; 20 minutes of this overlong jape could've been excised simply by cutting each of Cruise's nonverbal windups or reaction shots in half.
I was ready for "Rock of Ages." I wanted nothin' but a good time. I was reasonably ready to rock. The movie, full of talented performers in search of a more propulsive vehicle, settles for workmanlike cover-band status, which makes this a cover-band tribute to a jukebox musical — a long way from true, trashy exhilaration.
'Rock of Ages' -- 2 stars
MPAA rating: PG-13 (for sexual content, suggestive dancing, some heavy drinking and language)
Running time: 2:03