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Oh, the ’80s. If you lived through it, it was probably the best time of your life — whether that was true or not. Let’s face it, we all look back at our “coming of age” decade with what I like to call wistful thinking. Things were always better “back then” than they are now. That goes for the music. Which, I suspect, is why the Broadway play version of “Rock of Ages” is so popular, resulting in this star-studded A-list movie production, which now rocks out on DVD and Blu-ray October 9th courtesy of Warner Home Video.
“Rock of Ages” tells the story of small town girl Sherrie and city boy Drew, who meet on the Sunset Strip while pursuing their Hollywood dreams. Their rock ‘n’ roll romance is told through the heart-pounding hits of Def Leppard, Joan Jett, Journey, Foreigner, Bon Jovi, Night Ranger, REO Speedwagon, Pat Benatar, Twisted Sister, Poison, Whitesnake, and more.
Given the nostalgia factor, the fact that it’s based on a wildly popular Broadway show, and the A-list cast involved, it’s anybody’s guess why Adam Shankman’s “Rock of Ages” didn’t perform better at the box office. Made on a $75 million dollar budget (hey, those Aqua net hairspray don’t pay for themselves, you know), the film only grossed $51 million worldwide. As expected, the film didn’t fare well overseas, which isn’t a surprise given its highly Americana ’80s content. But it still only made $38 domestically, which is really surprising.
The best parts of “Rock of Ages” definitely involves Tom Cruise, here playing the ’80s appropriate Stacee Jaxx, aka the biggest rock and roll star in the whole wide world. Cruise has great chemistry with “Watchmen’s” Malin Akerman, playing a reporter with ridiculously funky Glenn Close hair. Mary J. Blige and Alec Baldwin as club bigwigs are amusing (Baldwin in particular rocks in the roll), though Paul Giamatti as a thoroughly unpleasant fellow feels like he belongs in another movie entirely. “Rock of Ages” features a ton of ’80s power ballads from famous bands, and for those acquainted with the decade, it’s a who’s who of greatest hits. The film can be silly, over-the-top, and excessive at times, but then again, this is the ’80s we’re talking about. Silly, over-the-top and excessive was the point.
“Rock of Ages” has the actors actually sing the songs (albeit studio-produced), and for the most part they all do it rather well, including an entertaining Catherine Zeta-Jones doing a sassy Pat Benatar number (including Michael Jackson dance moves) in a church. Curiously, despite her background as a professional singer, Julianne Hough comes across as the weakest singer in the bunch, which is somewhat ironic. But Hough makes for a good entry into “Rock of Ages’” seedy world of rock and roll, as her small-town girl looking for fame and fortune gets splashed with a cold dash of reality instead. Her scenes with fellow young dreamer Drew (Diego Boneta) are cute, if not entirely convincing. Like our young pair, “Rock of Ages” is a mostly harmless film, a piece of nostalgia for those who grew up in the ’80s. For the rest of you, a huge appreciation of the era’s big hair music is a must, otherwise you might spend more time laughing at the ridiculous fashion than enjoying the movie for what it is.
The “Rock of Ages” Blu-ray Combo Pack arrives with the film on standard DVD and Blu-ray, with a theatrical cut and extended version of the movie that is about 13 minutes longer, give or take. For fans of the movie and songs, you can skip directly to all the songs without bothering yourself with all that plot and dialogue what-not. For the rest of you, the Blu-ray is packed with extras, including a whopping 8-part “Defining a Decade” featurette (about 35 minutes total) hosted by Hough and Boleta that recounts the behind-the-scenes making of the film. Former ’80s big hair mainstay Bret Michaels (former frontman of the band Poison) hosts two ’80s-themed featurettes that dives into the backgrounds of the bands that defined the era, including “Legends of the Sunset Strip” (30 minutes) and “The Stories We Sing” (12 minutes). And finally, there’s a music video for “Any Way You Like It” by Mary J. Blige. Video and sound were excellent, which are musts given the film’s extensive musical numbers and appreciable set designs.