Upon This Rock of Ages

For my birthday this year, my father sent me and my best friend to see the Broadway production Rock of Ages. I went into the show with an open mind, but only moderate expectations. After all, as much as I love the music of the decade, the concept of a musical built around a smashing together of hits that one would expect to find on an 80’s Rock Gold CD seemed to me to be more than just a little of a stretch. So, it was more than just a pleasant surprise to find out how well the concept worked. In fact, it worked out so well that, although it will by no means go down as a stage classic, Rock of Ages turned out to be one of the four or five most fun and entertaining shows I have ever been to – and I’ve been to more than a few.

So, I was both a bit excited, and also a bit nervous when I saw previews for a movie version of the production, somehow starring Tom Cruise as a rock-god complete with a women’s Christian values group that had no part in the stage production. However, given how pleasantly surprised I was by the stage production, I figured I should really consider giving the movie a try.

Unfortunately, the movie only marginally resembled the rather spectacular stage production.  That isn’t to say that the film version was not entertaining, it was. But it left something to be desired, primarily the raw edginess of the stage show. The film was rated R, so there was really no reason to change things up so much, making the film a sugar-coated version of the rock musical that, quite frankly, exuded sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll. The story for the stage production was certainly not its selling point, so it was rather disappointing that the movie’s story, with all the various changes, was, if possible, even weaker.

But, despite all that, I think that perhaps the biggest drawback to the film can be summed up in one hyphenated word: auto-tune. This movie is a rock musical. One would think that the very first prerequisite for casting would be to have the voice to carry the part. Alas, a mere two minutes into the movie, artificial voice manipulation is already apparent. I find it hard to believe that with the number of people flocking to Hollywood to become stars (one of the main themes of the film actually) that the casting directors couldn’t find a young, sexy couple with the ability to belt out rock ballads without excessive use of post-production tune-up.

Now, before this post gets mistaken as a poor review of the film, or my criticisms are taken to mean that I disliked the film, let me be clear. Despite not living up to its inspiration, the film is fun and entertaining. The casting of Alec Baldwin as Denis Dupree and Mary J. Blige as Justice was absolutely inspired. Where the casting department missed with casting the romantic leads, they scored doubly by casting those two. And, for any of you ladies out there that are actually reading this blog, if you have not seen this movie, Tom Cruise alone is worth the price of a rental from Red Box. Just do yourself a favour, if you have a significant other, don’t hold it against them if they don’t measure up to Mr. Cruise. It’s quite possible he has not looked this good in 30 years. And it certainly doesn’t hurt that every other scene becomes an excuse for him to strip down and show off his svelte, muscled body while belting out iconic rock.

Despite the fact that the film was entertaining, it still fell short of living up to the musical. Now, come Christmas Day, we get a film adaptation of Les Miserables. Whereas Rock of Ages might have been able to get by with altering the story and relying on technology to clean up the vocals, I certainly hope that the producers don’t try anything similar with Les Miserables.

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