Director: Adam Shankman
I have been anticipating this movie since the announcement of its release a little while back. Being a huge Broadway fan to start with, a musical movie is just always an exciting possibility. While I’ve never seen this one onstage, everyone knows just about every song involved – it’s all classic rock! In short, I just couldn’t see where it could possibly go wrong.
I am pleasantly surprised that I was right – this was really, truly a rocking film! The tagline states “a small town girl and a city boy meet on the Sunset Strip, while pursuing their Hollywood dreams,” so clearly we’re in for some Journey (and of course the biggest hit is what closes it all out – because you can’t stop believing). Of course, as we all know, rockstar dreams are not without their peril. The two struggle with their relationship more than anything else though. They really don’t seem to live the life of struggling singers trying to making it famous – one song winds up doing it all.
The storyline? Well, there’s about 3-4, but it all centers around the top club on the Strip, The Bourbon Room. The club’s in major trouble, but Stacee Jaxx is coming to perform and bring in the big bucks, so in theory it should be saved. Inside of the club, a bar-back/singer wants to be famous but has to overcome stage fright, and a young girl from Oklahoma begs her way into a waitressing job to start her new life in LA. Naturally, they fall in love. When Stacee appears for his gig though, mishaps occur, and the boy dumps the girl based on an assumption of cheating with the rock star (which they don’t discuss for another hour). In the meantime, there’s a ‘clean up our streets’ protest constantly trying to shut the bar down. It all culminates in the end – the rock star, the small-town girl, the bar-back, the protesters, and the club’s fate – into one rocking number that solves everything and, in Stacee’s words “makes you want to live forever.”
One of the major selling points to this film was the introduction of Tom Cruise as a singer in the form of Stacee Jazz: a world-famous rockstar who’s never actually sober and rarely remembers he even has a gig to play at. I’d like to say Constance Sack (Malin Akerman), a Rolling Stone reporter sent to write about his impending solo career, changes his life, but there’s very little depth to Stacee. He does have some sort of revelation about love and life, but there’s no connection made across the screen of that to us.
Relationship-wise, the one that actually makes you feel the most? The one between the two nightclub managers, Dennis Dupree (Alec Baldwin) and Lonny (Russell Brand). They deliver not only the most comedic performances, but also the most convincing. Okay, there are moments that I catch Alec Baldwin holding back a laugh from himself, but they are just fantastic throughout the film. They have the most realistic struggle to conquer as well: keeping their club open in face of tax and social pressures.
I suppose we should talk on the two main characters: baby-faced Drew Boley (Diego Boneta) and our small-town girl Sherrie Christian (Julianne Hough). Yes to Diego, no to Julianne – sorry, but I just can’t stand her breathy voice. As an actress though, she makes sense for the film and does the role justice. Her counterpart here, Drew/Diego is adorable and he’s probably got the best voice in the film (aside from Broadway Cast original, Constantine, who makes a quick cameo on one note). I hope to see him in more rock rolls sooner than later.
Some other highlights of the film included the powerful Mary J. Blige as strong nightclub owner Justice Charlier, Paul Giamatti as greasy manager Paul Gill (and no, that’s not as in ‘slick,’ Paul), and Catherine Zeta-Jones as Patricia Whitmore, the woman trying to take the whole Sunset Strip down. If this film was anything less than the best time of each person’s life to make, I’d be shocked.
The music’s incredible, the cast is explosive, and the story is all Broadway. Oh, and there’s a nice cameo scene with some amazing 80′s rockers defending their art. This movie did everything it was supposed to, and I would go back and see it again anytime – if for nothing more than to actually sing along this time. “Don’t stop beliiieeevvvin’!!!”