A rambunctious Rock of Ages has inventive choreographer Adam Shankman (a producer along with the likes of Tobey Maguire) parading through the Reagan-era with some marquee actors like he did in his heady Hairspray five years ago.
Tom Cruise, Alec Baldwin, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Paul Giamatti are part of the ensemble actually led by Julianne Hough (Footloose 2011) and Diego Boneta to ignite some romance, innuendo as a star-studded musical romp set in 1987 that is eventually more bloated and too stunted and superficial than many may consider it to be.
Many of the performers obviously seem to embrace roles against ones they're usually cast in a fairly energetic, amusing movie based on a hit musical still going strong on Broadway's Great White Way.
Hough's small-town Oklahoma girl Sherrie takes a long bus ride to the Showbiz capital of the world to try to hit it big as a rock star. The demure gal with Farrah Fawcett hair meets stage-impaired Drew (Boneta) who also shares her aspirations and toils as a bar-back in the renowned Bourbon Room on the Sunset Strip.
The functional script complements of Justin Theroux, Chris D'Arienzo and Allan Loeb has Drew getting the Bourbon's proprietor Dennis (Baldwin) with crony Lonny (Russell Brand) to hire Sherrie as a barmaid while rock diva Stacee Jaxx (a flamboyant Cruise so efficient and slick in last year's Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocal) is slated for an important gig.
The heat is turned up a bit through the very conservative Mayor's wife, Patricia Whitmore, a prudish, chic Zeta-Jones out to keep the musical menace from harming its youth, as well as a pretty, prodding reporter Constance (Malin Akerman of Watchmen and 27 Dresses) out to get the scoop on what makes Jaxx tick.
The song and dance skill of Hough and Boneta on-screen is clearly evident, but in the wannabe star scheme of things, their connection and emphasis to the movie's overall impact is more hackneyed than vibrant. But, that's not to say that, they, like many others in the cast, help to project Shankman's affectionately sentimental nostalgic mood. The gifted director knows how to infuse memorable rock anthems and power ballads into the story, but sure-handedly as many interested viewers will be reminded of how the popular small-screen Glee has had its own absurd fun with the material.
Not that many won't be impressed in how Cruise hams up the demigod in Jaxx with erotically pompous self-loathing in doing his own (okay) vocals. Zeta-Jones and Giamatti have been in film musicals before as Patricia's ire is felt and the sleaziness from the latter's manipulative manager of Stacee. Long-tressed Baldwin and Brand provide enough pep and pop to their pair.
The recorded songs on view (some from multiple recordings) will find favor with many who grew up or lived during this time frame (and watched a lot of MTV or even VH-1 tribute programs) even as the main pull of love against celebrity never really takes hold. It's like Almost Famous with a more sonorous jukebox version of Mamma Mia mixed in - though even Cruise can't pull off what Meryl Streep delightfully did in a cheesy (sing-along) fabrication.
Besides a scene-stealer of a baboon, a more disassociated, satirical way through the artists heard like Def Leppard, Twisted Sister, Journey, Foreigner, Poison, and REO Speedwagon would have kept Rock of Ages (also a Def Leppard album) more stirring even through the climactic overdone (if original part of the storyline) "Don't Stop Believing." It's not as much infectiously thrilling through irrelevant distractions and stammering with all the hair and fashions that will linger afterwards more so than the characters and their stories.