It’s always tricky trying to adapt a popular musical into a spectacular film. Sometimes you’ll create a fun flick like Mamma Mia!, while other times you’ll end up with a mess like Nine. Rock of Ages delivers a movie musical that can’t carry a narrative tune. It has all the visual glitz and the glamour of the hit show but the story feels like it’s three drafts away from greatness.

The Players:

  • Director: Adam Shankman
  • Writers: Justin Theroux, Chris D’Arienzo, Allan Loeb
  • Cast: Diego Boneta, Julianne Hough, Tom Cruise, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Alec Baldwin, Russell Brand, Malin Akerman, Paul Giamatti
  • Cinematography: Bojan Bazelli

The Plot:

Sherrie Christian (Hough) is a small town girl looking to make it big in music during the 1980s in Hollywood. She goes to the famous Bourbon Room on the Sunset Strip where she meets sweet city boy Drew Boley (Boneta) and they instantly fall for each other. But between the struggle for fame and other elements around them, they’ll have to try their hardest to keep their relationship alive.

The Good:

  • The Music: This is obviously one of the best parts of the film. They just took a bundle of popular ’80s rock songs and slapped them onto this musical. The only concern is whether or not the actors featured know how to carry a tune. So yes, the music is great, but we’ll get on about the singing performances a little later.
  • The Costumes: Costume designer Rita Ryack must have had a blast putting together the most absurd but decade correct outfits for these characters. Each one is amusing to see, even though in the back of our minds we’re secretly thankful we don’t have to wear their outfits. That is unless you really like doing so. But great job Rita, your wardrobe really made each scene pop with color.
  • Tom Cruise/Paul Giamatti: A number of people have been saying this online–couldn’t the movie just center on these two? They’re both the best parts, which isn’t particularly a good thing since the characters are (or are supposed to be) minor roles. Cruise plays an overtly cool but lustful rock god, while Giamatti is a slimy music agent complete with a cowboy tie and a frizzy ponytail.

The So-So:

  • The Performances/Singing: None of these actors are particularly bad singers. It’s just that some of them sound like they’re struggling to maintain the minimum of singing i.e. Cruise and Alec Baldwin. But then you run into the youngsters of the group, Diego Boneta and Julianne Hough. They’re both fairly fine showing off their vocal range, but fall flat when it comes to their performances. In fact, that’s what it’s like for a majority of the cast minus Catherine Zeta-Jones. Sadly, Zeta-Jones comes off as too overzealous. She’s like an overly eager theater kid thrilled to get a supporting role in the big high school play. Therefore, she gives a very unnecessarily “loud” performance.

The Bad:

  • The Editing: We understand there were particular editing styles used to cut together music videos in the ’80s. You know, those random fast cuts that had nothing to do with what was really going on in the song? They worked in those videos but have no place in this movie. There are certain points in the film where it feels like the editor was either ridiculously rushed, or slapped it together without giving it a once over. Thank goodness this film wasn’t in 3D or else movie-goers would walk out with migraines.
  • The Direction: When you’re watching a movie, every once in a while you can tell the director’s asleep at the wheel. And they somehow allow their film to careen into a ditch in the middle of nowhere. That’s basically what Adam Shankman did with Rock of Ages. It feels like he’s more concerned about cramming in as much as possible with each shot. This mainly has to do with the movements, more than actually telling a story through the lens of a camera. Sadly, it feels a bit lazy, and we were hoping for more, especially with such a fun premise as this.
  • The Story: The writers shoved several small stories together, added some catchy ’80s music, and blended it into a script that would probably look like the color brown if it was in liquid form. Who said it was okay to suddenly kick out the two lead characters a half hour in and let it turn into the Stacee Jaxx show? We understand Cruise is a bigger star, but if they wanted it to be just him, they shouldn’t have bothered with the other story in the first place. The same goes with the subplot of keeping the Bourbon Room alive. It’s one of the original main points of the play that is thrown in as an afterthought. By the time the movie reaches its predictable conclusion you’re just glad it’s over.


Rock of Ages is a movie that could have been great. Heck, it could have been a spectacularly entertaining film. But there were so many problems that it comes off as an incoherent mess. Talk about a missed opportunity.

The Rating: 3/10

Rock of Ages is out in theaters everywhere June 15.


Will you be seeing Rock of Ages this weekend?