News and notes from Fredericksburg's entertainment scene
Movie Reviews: “Rock of Ages” and “That’s My Boy”
THE FREE LANCE-STAR
“ROCK OF AGES” (PG–13)
2 of 4 stars
JULIANNE HOUGH, DIEGO BONETA, TOM CRUISE, ALEC BALDWIN, RUSSELL BRAND, CATHERINE ZETA–JONES, PAUL GIAMATTI
There are a few fun moments in this failed attempt to make a musical out of ’80s rock and power ballads.
But most of it is hard to watch, largely because they’ve taken every ounce of danger, spontaneity and edge out of the music.
Instead, it’s rock as performed for “American Idol” or as lip-synched moments on a bad variety show.
Toss in the fact that young leads Julianne Hough and Diego Boneta don’t have the depth or skills to carry a film, and that the older actors in pigtails look and sound silly, and you’ve got more problems than any film can overcome.
But it wasn’t all bad. Even though I figured Tom Cruise would fall on his face as an iconic rock star, he’s actually one of the few pieces of this faulty rock mosaic that sort of works.
He’s a bit of a shrimp, which lessens his stage presence, but his moves, his acting and his slightly chiseled body work in the role, even if he does have to wear butt-baring chaps at one point.
Like all the performers, the snippets of his songs sound bland and de-fanged.
By the time we’ve watched the young leads sing, prance and flip their long hair to a string of forgettable rock ballads, it becomes a chore not to bolt for the door.
Hough is pretty, has a nice voice and is slowly developing into a passable actress.
She’s sweet and likable, but they do her no favors here by putting her on the stripper pole before the story ends.
Boneta is instantly forgettable—as bland and lukewarm as the music and action he dances through.
Alec Baldwin is fairly entertaining as the owner of the rock club where most of the movie takes place, though he looks more than a tad silly in long hair. And it’s a shame they asked him to sing.
Russell Brand is more fun as the other club regulars, tossing out rejoinders that are about the only real juice in this stale lemon.
A side plot with Catherine Zeta–Jones as a mayor’s wife who wants to shut down the evil rock club is the weakest thread, feeling forced and tacked on.
But there is a bigger issue here. You can’t make a movie about rock, even ’80s rock, with characters who seem better suited to a PTA meeting.
It’s almost as if the folks who made this wanted to make fun of the music, and then wove a story through it that feels like a weak sequel to “Grease.”
It might have worked a few decades ago, but now it just feels sad—like the pitiful ponytail Paul Giamatti sports as the unseemly rock agent.
Rated PG–13 for sexual content, suggestive dancing, some heavy drinking, and language. 123 min. [MC, PV, RA]
“THAT’S MY BOY” (R)
1.5 of 4 stars
ADAM SANDLER, ANDY SAMBERG, LEIGHTON MEESTER, VANILLA ICE,
Redoing the same silly debauchery scenes he’s done for years, Adam Sandler loses ground again in this latest flop.
When he makes his goofball character someone you can laugh at while he ridicules himself, Sandler can be funny, especially if he does it in a way that’s not so gross.
But when he tries to replace working for laughs with tawdry sex and body function jokes, it’s not worth the effort.
The boyish charm and humor he used to be able to generate are also fading as he gets older.
Here, he plays the father to Andy Samberg, the son he gave up years earlier.
The fact that he fathered the child with a teacher as a 14-year-old, with her going to prison long-term, tells you what you’re dealing with.
People like Sandler would do well to learn this: Either be funny in a cleaner, less offensive way, or let ’er rip and go for broke. Trying to meet in the middle doesn’t work for anyone.
Sure, he’ll make money with this because he’s got a fan base that likes his silliness. But even they will get tired of drivel like this.
Rated R for crude sexual content throughout, nudity, pervasive language and some drug use. 85 min. [MC, PV, RA]