Leo Quinones, host of KFWB’s Film Freak Movie Talk Show, has this to say about “Rock of Ages:”
The year: 1987. Mullets were the rage. I know, I had one. On the upside, I had my share of fun and frolic on the famed Sunset Strip. It’s literally a Miracle Mile for Blackouts. Such is the time and backdrop of “Rock of Ages.” The Broadway musical’s now a full-fledged, star-studded feature film. When the movie started, I was genuinely lost. What’s happening here? Why is everyone singing? After 10-15 minutes, I was struck by the obvious hammer: It’s a musical. I know, I’m a genius.
So I settle in for a rock ‘n’ roll journey. Sherrie Christian (Julianne Hough) is a small town girl. Drew (Diego Boneta) is a city boy, born and raised in South Detroit. You get where I’m heading. She dreams of being a singer. He wants to be the next Rock God, Stacee Jaxx. Their fates intertwine at The Bourbon Room, a fictitious rock ‘n’ roll sanctuary on the Sunset Strip.
The bread amd butter of “Rock of Ages” is the music. It’s funny how a few actors in the movie were not really into the music. Alec Baldwin, who plays Dennis Dupree owner of The Bourbon Room, says he remembers “switching off the radio in the ’80s.” Russell Brand, who plays Lonnie, Dennis’ right hand man, freely admits he wasn’t into pop-rock at all, except for The Cure. Be that as it may, the music drives the movie.
Tom Cruise should get a lot of credit for taking on the role of Stacee Jaxx. The love story of Drew and Sherrie revolves around the surreal rock star existence of Stacee Jaxx, longtime lead singer of the rock band, Arsenal. Jaxx is at a crossroads in his life and career. The thing about Cruise that I appreciate most is his work ethic. Unlike many actors, he doesn’t inhabit a role without first doing his homework.
The result is out there on the “Rock of Ages” soundtrack, forever. The guy spent months getting his voice right for the part, before ever stepping on set. Two highlights were his versions of Bon Jovi’s anthemic, “Wanted: Dead or Alive” and a duet of Foreigner’s “I Want To Know What Love Is” with Malin Ackerman.
NON SPOILER FACTS: When I saw the movie, I thought they’d closed part of the Sunset Strip. I was about 3,000 miles off the mark. The crew scouted locations as far away as Sydney, Australia. The mock Sunset Strip is actually located in Miami in the neighborhood of Overtown. Built in six weeks, the set included The Bourbon Room,a Guitar Center, The Roxy, The Comedy Store, The Sunset Grill, Duke’s Filthy McNasty’s, which is now The Viper Room and of course, Frederick’s of Hollywood. If you look closely, you’ll see a Shell gas station where a gallon of gas was just $1.31.
Dressing the set, you’ll also see vintage cars of the period like Corvettes, Pontiac Fieros, Jeeps and even a 1985 white Cadillac Fleetwood limousine used by the one and only Stacee Jaxx. You’ll also see a blow-up, 20-foot balloon of a chick sitting spread-eagle atop the Tower Records building. But my favorite piece of background dressing is the DeLorean sitting in front of the Venus Gentleman’s Club owned by Justice (Mary J. Blige). I’ll have to confirm later if that was a tip of the Hoverboard to Doc Brown and Marty McFly.
With all these ’80s pop songs driving the plot, there’s a definite cheese level at play here, but ultimately that’s the fun. Cynics take caution: The tone of Rock of Ages doesn’t ever make fun of the music, the high hair or the huge shoulder pads. It celebrates it. Who’s in for the ride? I see cougars simply loving this movie and anyone who wants nuthin’ but a good time.
Directed by Adam Shankman, Rock of Ages is rated PG-13. Hey man, Follow me on Twitter @leoquinones. I mean why not, Stacee Jaxx and Heyman do and they’re my rock ‘n’ roll brothers.