When I accepted the invitation from Best Buy to review the Warner Bros. movie Rock of Ages in anticipation of its release on DVD October 9, I expected the movie to be raunchy. After all, it is about rock and roll. I also expected to know many of the songs featured in the movie. After all, I am a fan of rock and roll.
What I didn't expect, though, was for Rock of Ages to be so much fun. And I definitely didn't expect to like it so darn much. After all, I had avoided seeing it in theaters when first released because it just seemed rather far fetched and silly.
Turns out Rock of Ages is silly—but it's that blatant, unabashed silliness that ended up most endearing me to it.
Rock of Ages, set in 1987, tells the story of Sherrie and Drew, two young adults who want nothing more than to make their rock-and-roll dreams come true. Sherrie (Julianne Hough) arrives in Los Angeles by bus from Oklahoma to pursue stardom. She meets Drew (Diego Boneta), a barback with rock-and-roll visions of his own, and the two fall in love, setting the stage for a bounty of rock-and-roll ballads to be sung.
It's the singing of so many ballads and other songs that most surprised me. Somehow I missed in early trailers and subsequent reviews that Rock of Ages is a musical. Not a movie with a strong soundtrack, a la Almost Famous, but a real musical, the kind in which nearly every character sings. Opening with Sherrie and her fellow bus passengers waxing melancholic to "Sister Christian" and ending with Sherrie, Drew and everyone viewers meet along the way rocking out to "Don't Stop Believing," Rock of Ages is an over-the-top musical treat with lots of dancing, lots of singing. Alec Baldwin sings. Russell Brand, of course, sings. Catherine Zeta-Jones sings. Tom Cruise, who plays an Axl Rose-type rock star, sings. Even Paul Giamatti sings. Everyone sings. (Everyone except Bryan Cranston, that is, though it was treat enough just to see the best of the bad boys getting spanked in one scene.)
I love musicals. I especially love campy musicals, which is why I so enjoyed Rock of Ages. It's camp at its best, right in line with Cry Baby, Grease and other over-the-top musicals in which all the characters are fun-loving—or dastardly—caricatures of folks we all know or wish we did.
What I loved most about Rock of Ages: Anyone who follows Grandma's Briefs knows I'm a fan of mashups, and Rock of Ages had some pretty good ones: "Jukebox Hero" mashed with "I Love Rock and Roll;" "We're Not Gonna Take It" mashed with "We Built This City;" "Shadows of the Night" mashed with "Harden My Heart." And so many more. As expected, I knew nearly every song in the movie...by heart.
I also loved the performances by Mary J. Blige—whose part may have been small but her voice was the largest and most goose bump producing—and Malin Ackerman, who spared no goofiness in her role as a Rolling Stones reporter. The highlight for me, though, was the montage and duet featuring Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand. I'll give nothing away except that it was absolutely hilarious.
What I didn't love so much: I'm not a Tom Cruise fan, and his participation in the movie was part of the reason I didn't see it in theaters. On the plus side, he's not the lead in Rock of Ages, despite the trailers making it seem as if might be. Also, I found Julianne Hough's voice rather grating at times. Personal preference on both counts, as I know many folks adore both Tom and Julianne.
Bottom line: As the movie tagline says, Rock of Ages is "nothing but a good time." Once I realized that's really all it's meant to be, Rock of Ages proved to be an unexpectedly good time—one I'll surely enjoy again.
Rock of Ages (PG-13, 123-minutes) is available on DVD October 9 at Best Buy.
Disclosure: The reviewer has been compensated in the form of a Best Buy Gift Card and/or received the product/service at a reduced price or for free.