Rock of Ages (2012)

Starring: Tom Cruise, Alec Baldwin, Paul Giamatti, Russell Brand, Julianne Hough, Diego Boneta, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Bryan Cranston, Malin Ackerman, Sebastian Bach

Directed by: Adam Shankman

Rating: 1 2 3 and a half

Sherrie (Julianne Hough) and Drew (Diego Boneta) in Rock of Ages. I've been in that Tower Records, dontcha know.

Oh lordy, where do I start with this one?

Back in the late '80s, growing up in the midst of the Madchester scene, I lived and breathed the heady atmosphere of the LA glam music scene. My favourite film was The Decline of Western Civilisation Part II: The Metal Years, a documentary by Penelope Spheeris which peered through the dry ice and hairspray to reveal the hopes and dreams of the young bleach-blonde, backcombed, leather-clad wannabes who haunted the Sunset Strip – just a few years before the entire scene was swept away by grunge. So what am I to make of a jukebox musical that lovingly recreates the glory days of the Strip – then fills the soundtrack with Journey?!

So, do I start by bemoaning the anachronisms, the fact that, despite some pretty excellent styling, no-one looks quite as terrible as anyone in The Metal Years, and the clearly misleading title, that should more accurately read Adult Oriented Rock of Ages. Do I wail the lack of Mötley Crüe, Faster Pussycat, Ratt and other Sunset Strip regulars?

Or do I slap five stars on this totally ridiculous, poodle perm of a musical because it made me feel seventeen again, ready, at one point at least, to leap out of my seat and start screaming like I've just seen the top of Bret Michaels' head outside the Marquee. (La, la...)

Rock of Ages tells the age old story of a small town girl, Sherrie (Julianne Hough), who steps off a bus out into the city street, her whole life packed in a suitcase at her feet. But the lights certainly don't shine so bright when her suitcase is almost immediately stolen and she finds herself alone and penniless in the badlands of LA. Step up her knight in shining armour, Drew (Diego Boneta), who finds her a job at the infamous rock'n'roll dive the Whisky, sorry Bourbon Room, owned by ageing reprobate Dennis Dupree (Alec Baldwin at his most loveable), assisted by slightly younger reprobate Lonny (Russell Brand, who clearly acquired his 'Brummie' brogue at the Dick Van Dyke School of British Accents).

Dennis Dupree (Alec Baldwin) and Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise)in Rock of Ages

Playing at the Bourbon is Stacee Jaxx, once the world's biggest rock star, now the world's biggest asshole, adrift in a solipsistic world of girls, booze and mystic gubbins (although no fags and drugs – apparently drowning yourself in Jack Daniel's is acceptable, but lighting up is beyond the parental guidance pale). Hellooo Axl Rose, Paul Stanley... Tom Cruise?!

Yes, I was unconvinced too when I heard that Mr Scientology was strapping on the leather pants that ain't got no butt in them to bring this larger than life rock'n'roll cartoon to the big screen, but boy did Mr C. convince me. Not only does he 'totally nail' the stereotypical self-centred, jaded, brain-addled rock star, he also brings a sense of pathos to what would otherwise be a thoroughly two-dimensional character. His Stacee Jaxx is a tragic clown, alone and lonely in his stardust ring, exploited by his oily manager Paul, brilliantly portrayed by Paul Giamatti, who would steal the show completely, had it not already been whipped out from under his noise by Cruise.

Snapping at Jaxx's heels we have new mayor Mike Whitmore (Bryan Cranston), elected on a promise to clean up the Strip, abetted by his Tipper Gore purity campaigner wife Patricia (Catherine Zeta-Jones, smouldering with repressed sexuality). Their prime target? The Bourbon. Of course.

Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise) and Paul Gill (Paul Giamatti) in Rock of Ages

Okay, so the plot won't win any prizes for originality, and as ever with these jukebox musicals, I mostly found myself wishing they'd stop wasting time with the silly story and just sing some more songs, especially if they could all be as good as the beautiful mash-ups of Extreme's 'More Than Words' and Warrant's 'Heaven' and Tom Cruise's electrifyingly exciting rending of my favourite Def Leppard song, 'Pour Some Sugar On Me' (that was the bit that nearly saw me standing on my seat).

Admittedly, five stars is too many for a film in which less than half the cast can act (and it loses another point for making me (cringe) fancy Tom Cruise). But the marvellous scenery-chewing turns from Cruise, Giamatti and Baldwin and the sheer energy and exuberance of the whole film more than make up for the cardboard performances of the young leads and the pathetically weak script. Throw in some lovely nostalgic digs for those of us that remember the era, some entertaining blink-and-you-miss-'em cameos from the likes of Skid Row's Sebastian Bach, some superbly staged musical numbers and, hell, it might be worth four.

CC, pick up that guitar and talk to me...

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