June 15, 2012 -- "Rock Of Ages" is adapted from a popular Broadway show which built a story around actual 1980's hair metal hits and power ballads. The director, Adam Schankman, did a fine job with his last musical-to-movie adaptation, Hairspray. Does he do it again? Kind of.
Ex-Dancing with the Stars pro and sometime country singer Julianne Hough plays "just a small town girl," Sherrie Christian ("Oh, Sherrie," "Sister Christian" -- get it?) She's pursuing her dream of becoming a rock star by moving to Hollywood. But as soon as she gets off the bus, she's mugged, and quicker than you can say "Sebastian Bach Rocks," she meets fellow aspiring rocker Drew (newcomer Diego Boneta), a barback at the famed Bourbon Room club. He gets Sherrie a job there, and we meet the club's owner, Alec Baldwin's Dennis Dupree, and his right hand man Lonny, the incomparable Russell Brand.
Now throw in Catherine Zeta-Jones as Patricia Whitmore, an over-the-top cartoonish manifestation of what you'd get if you crossed Tipper Gore with Tawny Kitaen and Saturday Night Live's The Church Lady. She's hell-bent on cleaning up the Sunset Strip and shutting down the Bourbon Room, all in the hopes of advancing the career of her husband the mayor, played by Bryan Cranston. She'll even sing Pat Benatar's "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" to prove her devotion to the cause.
Meanwhile, the Bourbon Room is in trouble, because Dennis owes thousands of dollars in back taxes. What will save the club? A concert by Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise), the former lead singer of the fictional heavy metal rockers Arsenal. Jaxx has gone solo, but in order to thank Dennis for helping him start his career, he's agreed to play the one-off show, providing he can stay sober.
Tom Cruise, who possesses the voice of a metal god – who knew? -- gives one of the most surprising, entertaining and captivating performances of his career. Cruise holds nothing back and it's a pleasure to watch. Kudos also to Malin Ackerman, who plays a Rolling Stone journalist tasked with neutering the rock legend. These two are outrageously watchable and possess an infectious chemistry that leaves us wanting more.
For an hour-and-a-half, "Rock of Ages'" brand of high camp and 1980's cheese is simply smile-inducing. Unfortunately, it clocks in at over two hours, and when it's not smile-inducing, it's eye-roll inducing. But even at its worst, you have to admire the effort Cruise, Ackerman, Alec Baldwin, Russell Brand and company put into these over-the-top, impossibly ridiculous characters and situations. If you like the music, you'll sing along. If you have nothing but disdain for that era and its music, you'll probably hate it.
Three Out of Five Stars.