Friday, June 1, 2012

A review of the new movie Rock of Ages

I really want to be kind to this movie. I knew that I would likely be disappointed, but I walked into the theater prepared to give it a chance. While I knew that the musical numbers would not stand up to the original artists, I reminded myself that maybe this is a good thing. Maybe this will introduce a new, younger audience to some music that has not gotten the respect it deserves over time. I tried to see the movie as a tribute to the great bands of the 80s. I tried.  I really, really tried.

I failed.  I hate it.  I hate this movie so bad.

No... no... then I remind myself that I am going to the concert in July! I bought tickets to the "Rock of Ages" tour! Def Leppard, Poison and Lita Ford, all on the same ticket! This movie is bringing the music back!  Yayyy?  Aw who the hell am I kidding? Poison and Def Leppard have never stopped entertaining people and they both have the same band members they've had for nearly thirty years. I'm done f-f-f-foolin' myself about this movie. It was like watching people at karaoke completely botch my favorite songs. It was painful.

So then I have to wonder - who is this movie for? It is not for people in my generation who grew up with this music because (I  will speak for my entire generation here) the music sounds awful to us because we know how much better it sounds with the original vocalists. So, is it for the younger generation? To tell the story of the Sunset Strip to people who vaguely recognize this music from Guitar Hero and American Idol? That is really the only possible audience I can think of. Only a young person would not understand how cruel it is to start off with the opening riffs of the Scorpions, followed by a female singing the lead vocals. Seriously, that's torture. I don't personally know what it is like for a heterosexual man to hire a prostitute and then find out mid-coitus that the beautiful woman he just paid to have sex with is actually a man in drag, but I imagine it is very similar to how I felt when I heard Julianne Hough's voice along with the music of my youth. Again, I admit that I've never been a heterosexual man in that situation, but I'm 99.9% sure that this is exactly the same feeling.

Perhaps it's just me. Maybe I found the movie more objectionable because I feel such a personal connection with the music of this time period. This year I have seen Van Halen in concert twice, and I saw so many 80s metal bands at the M3 festival a couple of weeks ago and it has reminded me how underrated the musicians are. I don't know anyone in DC who is interested in seeing the same bands that I am. Most of my friends laugh at my choice of music and get a trivial look on their face when I get excited about Def Leppard or Motley Crue or Kix. The sad truth is that the music that I loved growing up, now classified as Glam Metal, or 80s Hair Bands... however you choose to classify them, they seem to be judged in retrospect at face value. And their faces... well, they are full of makeup and their hair is full of Aqua Net. History has not been fair to the musicians, and it's unfortunate. These bands surfaced about the same time that Mtv and music videos became an essential way for artists to get exposure. So yeah, they had the hair and the glam and the costumes, because that's how you made it in the 80s. It didn't matter how good the music was if you didn't have stage presence. Which is why I find it a bit ironic in this movie that they a point of mocking boy bands as a gimmick to capitalize on a new music trend. At one point, a manager decides that metal is out and tries to turn a metal band into a boy band because "that's what people want nowadays." But I view this entire movie as being the same kind of mockery as the brightly colored boy band members. If the whole point of the fake boy band was to not "sell out" and stay true to yourself, then why have I did I just spend two hours watching them turn 80s music into an episode of American Idol? I don't think that they make a strong case in making fun of pre-fab boy bands when their male and female leads appear to have started their respective careers in reality television. To me, this is just the movie industry capitalizing on the shallow popularity of reality TV in the same way the music industry seized the trend and manufactured boy bands in the 80s.

I really, really wanted to be kind to this movie and appreciate the music. Instead, I'm going to grab my iPod and appreciate the real music. If you grew up with the same music that I did, I recommend you do the same.


Paul said...

Will any movie ever capture those years and that scene better than Spinal Tap? Even Ozzy said it's much more a documentary than it is a comedy.

Anonymous said...

I think this movie is for anyone who wants to have fun. I saw it two days ago at a private screening. This film is just so much fun, the audience seemed to love it too.

I do not think this movie is supposed to tell a documentary of the 80s so I can not understand your rant about the time period. It is based on the broadway show Rock of Ages and it captured a similar tone.

When you say you went in the movie to give it a chance, I don't think that's exactly true from reading your review.

Anonymous said...

There's four F's in f-f-f-foolin'. Just s-s-s-sayin'.

signed: Your brother.

Kathleen said...

Fixed. Thanks bro!

Kathleen said...

F-f-f-fixed. Dammit, missed that one, too.

Paul said...

And I just got back from B&N, where I heard two Beach Boys songs in a row being sung by someone other than the Beach Boys. Without their harmonies, without the theremin in "Good Vibrations," just . . . just . . . why bother? Different era, but the same problem.

Kathleen said...

Thanks for reading & taking the time to leave a comment. I am glad that you liked the film. I suspect that the reason we have a difference of opinion on this film is b/c you are considerably younger than I am and probably don't have the original songs etched in your memory as I do. Have you ever watched a movie based on a book that you love & they completely mangled what you liked about the book? Your familiarity with source material shapes your reception. For example, if 80s rock was the original Star Wars trilogy, then Julianne Hough would be Jar Jar Binks

Kathleen said...

Haha, did you feel a sudden rush of empathy for me & my Rock of Ages rant? I felt a sudden desire to watch Spinal Tap again when I read your comment this morning. :-)