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Rock of Ages: 10 reasons every '80s fan should see it




The new movie Rock of Ages probably won't change anyone's mind about 1980s. If you loved big hair, rock anthems and once tolerated wine coolers before you headed into the cinema, you'll still be glowing afterward. If you turn into a bitter bag of sourpuss every time the radio plays Poison, there's sadly no cure for you here either.

And yet, the decade that declared "it's better to burn out than fade away" is in no danger of doing either in this big-screen adaptation of the popular Broadway musical.

After catching an early screening of the movie Monday night, here are ...


1. TOM CRUISE: Remember when we last loved him? Yup, the '80s before he got "too weird." As Axl-Rose wannabe Stacee Jaxx, Cruise deserves to have every '80s fan serenade *him* with You Lost That Lovin' Feeling after seeing his transformation into a rock star who gets lost in his fame. (Can you believe Cruise turns 50 next month?)

2. THE SMALLER ROLES: Mary J. Blige is underutilized as a strip-club owner, but she can wail when the music starts. Paul Giamatti oozes an impressive amount of slime as Stacee and Drew's manager. Alec Baldwin never disappoints these days, and he succeeds again as Bourbon Room owner Dennis Dupree, a grizzled bar owner who values rock and rye over profits or politics. And even Catherine Zeta-Jones, who starts off slow as a crusader looking to clean up the Strip, eventually becomes a steaming pot of sex when her history with Stacee Jaxx becomes clear. (I've never combined whipped cream with Wild Turkey before, but I'm tempted now after seeing this movie.)

3. THE TUNES: The Broadway version of Rock of Ages had many of the same tunes, but nowhere near the energy. Listen to Cruise turn Wanted Dead or Alive into an autobiography (of himself as well as his character), and you'll never want to hear Bon Jovi warble through it again.

4. THE CAMEOS: Look very carefully in the final street battle scene as real-life rockers/popsters Debbie Gibson, REO Speedwagon's Kevin Cronin and Skid Row's Sebastian Bach appear in the crowd.

5. THE SINGALONG: Night Ranger's Sister Christian is probably without peers among power ballads of the '80s. And with a female lead named Sherrie Christian, there's little surprise you'll hear it early in the movie. But when it takes an Almost Famous turn and transforms into a singalong ... goosebumps.

6. THOSE BIG MUSIC DISCS: I believe they were called "records" back then. Rock of Ages becomes an unintentional love letter to vinyl at times. An early trip through a now-extinct Tower Records on the Sunset Strip becomes a "how many can you name" challenge. Quick: See how many albums you once owned: Molly Hatchet, Ted Nugent, Lita Ford, Killing Joke, REO ... tears will come to your eyes.

7. FORGIVABLE DEFICIENCIES: Yes, the plot is razor thin. The chemistry between the young leads is lukewarm. Some the musical mashups and one-liners are cringe-worthy. And a cute simian sidekick hangs around a little too long, conjuring the same painful smirks that come from watching Every Which Way But Loose more than once. And at a playing time of just over two hours, it's simply too long. But in life as in movies, we make apologies for those we love. 

8. AIR HOCKEY TABLE: What Cruise and a Rolling Stone reporter do to what appears to be a "well-worn" gaming table -- to the words of Foreigner's I Want to Know What Love Is -- will change the way you think about the "sport" and the song.

9. CAN'T FIGHT THIS FEELING: Who knew that REO Speedwagon's chart-topper from 1985 would become the gay pride anthem of 2012?

10. THE CLIMAX: It's no surprise that Journey's eternal heart-thumper Don't Stop Believin' is the show-stopper for Rock of Ages, but the movie works it more into the plot -- punchlines and all. And when Cruise and the cast perform it one final time, your eyes will not be dry, your soul will not be empty and you'll leave your seat truly believing the '80s will never die.

[Last modified: Wednesday, June 13, 2012 8:29am]


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