The '80s were unique years. Fashions were bright and neon, computers arrived in homes and the music scene was blowing up. “New wave” was born and a new type of music became popular called “rap music.” Rock 'n' roll was ever-present through the decade but took a little detour into the “hair band era.”
Hair bands are not something your daughter wears in her hair. Rather, they are groups of guys (usually) who get a band together and make music, the key ingredient being, of course, that they must have hair at least to the shoulder in length. As for musical talent, well, the hair seems more important to some.
If you missed the '80s entirely or don’t remember what that time was like, you can revisit the decade with “Rock of Ages.” Adam Shankman, who directed the musical version of “Hairspray” for the big screen, directed this new film. His take on the '80s rock 'n' roll scene is playful, over-the-top and sinful.
The film starts out with the simple dream of a young girl, Sherrie Christian (Julianne Hough), who is trying to get out of her little town in Oklahoma. When she leaves, her suitcase holds mostly albums of her favorite rock bands. She goes to Los Angeles to become a singer but first gets robbed. Drew Boley (Diego Boneta) sees the robbery and gets her a job at the Bourbon, where he works. He is hoping to make it to the stage of the Bourbon one day.
The Bourbon is owned by Dennis Dupree (Alec Baldwin), who has given many bands their first big breaks, including Arsenal, whose front man is Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise). Jaxx and the band are playing their last concert together before Stacee goes solo, and they want to do it where it all started: the Bourbon.
In the '80s an evangelical political movement called the “Moral Majority” lobbied on moral social issues, and the film features this group as well. Patricia Whitmore (Catherine Zeta-Jones), the mayor's wife, leads a campaign to shut down the Bourbon and all that goes on inside its doors.
What goes on inside earns this film its PG-13 rating. The Bourbon is a bar, so there is some drinking going on ... and then some more and then even more. Alcohol is rampant in this film. There are more scenes with alcohol than without. Nudity consists of women in their underwear and Tom Cruise going around shirtless. Sexuality is a consideration as well: pole dancing occurs, and Stacee gets a lap dance in his dressing room.
Despite all of the raucous behavior, “Rock of Ages” is funny. There are scenes that will have you laughing for a long time. The acting in the film is good. Of course this is a rock musical, so do the actors sing well? Yes and no. Surprisingly, Tom Cruise does a good job singing. Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand are not necessarily talented with their singing, but they make their song very funny.
“Rock of Ages” is an over-the-top film. It’s meant to be so, and for parts of the film, that style works great. When it comes to the drinking and the sexuality, though, it is a bit much. I would have a hard time taking a 13-year-old to this PG-13 movie.
So you may be asking yourself, “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” Deciding whether to see this film can be a difficult decision. It is very entertaining and you’ll want to sing along, but there is a lot of drinking and sexuality on the screen. So you can either go see this film or take the advice that Nancy Reagan gave in the '80s and “just say no.” The choice is yours.
Shawn O'Neill is the Family Man Movie Reviewer on BYU Radio. His reviews can be heard on BYURadio.org and on SiriusXM Channel 143.