Alec Baldwin, left, and Tom Cruise in "Rock of Ages." (David James / Warner Bros. )
"Rock of Ages,"the rags-to-riches musical about a girl who finds love and fame on the Sunset Strip, opens in theaters Friday.
Spun from the stage musical that began in Hollywood in 2006 and reached Broadway in 2009 (where it's still playing), the on-screen version stars Tom Cruise as faint-worthy rock god Stacee Jaxx and Julianne Hough as fresh-off-the-bus Sherrie, as well as a star-packed supporting cast including Alec Baldwin, Russell Brand, Mary J. Blige, Paul Giamatti and Tony-winner Catherine Zeta-Jones as the uptight mayor's wife.
The girl-meets-boy-turns-rock-star story is set in 1987 and driven by head-banging ballads including Pat Benatar's "Hit Me With Your Best Shot," Foreigner's "I Want to Know What Love Is" and REO Speedwagon's "Can't Fight This Feeling."
The first reviews are in, and while some critics were singing along, others felt the film hit more than a few sour notes.
In The Times Kenneth Turan wrote that "Rock of Ages" is "the guiltiest of guilty pleasures. Blessed with unstoppable energy, an undeniably bawdy sense of fun." He added that the cast is "willing to dive headfirst into their roles and take the endeavor's inherent foolishness seriously, all with an eye toward enhancing the audience's fun."
Manohla Dargis of the New York Times wrote that the "overlong" "Rock" rests on a "bedrock of clichés from Hollywood’s favorite genre: movies about itself." Dargis added that the "Wonder Bread banality" from director Adam Shankman "looks like Disneyland and sounds, well, like a bad Broadway musical, with all the power belting and jazz-hand choreography that implies."
The Wall Street Journal's Joe Morgenstern wrote the film "outwears" its "welcome with an excess of glee" and criticizes Cruise's performance as "all incipience and no payoff.” He added that the talents of Zeta-Jones and Blige were “wasted” and that Brand with his "surfeit of warped wit, might have been terrific in the Stacee Jaxx role."
Entertainment Weekly's Owen Gleiberman wrote that "on stage, 'Rock of Ages' sizzled and popped," but Shankman, "who did such a great job of bringing the Broadway version of ‘Hairspray’ to the big screen, is a lot less sure-footed when it comes to the postures and emotions of rowdy kick-ass Americana." Gleiberman added that many of the numbers "are flatly shot and choreographed, and they look as if they'd been edited together with a meat cleaver."
When the Broadway show toured Los Angeles last year, Chris Willman wrote, "You will chortle, and you will sing along, and you will hate yourself in the morning — which may be the only way in which the show really faithfully re-creates the heyday of the infamous Rainbow Bar & Grill."
The national tour returns to Southern California in September for a two-night stop at the Granada Theatre in Santa Barbara.
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