'Rock of Ages': Is Tom Cruise's performance the movie's only redeeming quality?

Rock-of-Ages

Image Credit: David James

There’s no way around this fact: Rock of Ages is not a great movie. EW’s movie critic Owen Gleiberman gave the film a C and wrote this in his review: “Most of the numbers in Rock of Ages are flatly shot and choreographed, and they look as if they’d been edited together with a meat cleaver. With rare exceptions, they don’t channel the excitement of the music — they stultify it.” He went on to say that Rock of Ages — which was transferred from its jukebox Broadway origin to the big screen — is “a metal musical with a soft-rock soul, clunkily shot on sets that look like sets.” Harsh.

But Gleiberman also zeroes in on the one part of the movie that feels right: Tom Cruise’s performance as rock God Stacee Jaxx. “In the end, however, there is a reason to see Rock of Ages, and that’s Tom Cruise’s funny, louche performance as Stacee Jaxx, the film’s jaded and dissolute Axl Rose metal-god figure,” Gleiberman writes. “Cruise, holding his pistol-tattooed, zero-body-fat flesh at a drunken 45-degree angle, has the look and the poses down flat, but he also gives Stacee a haunted underside. … Cruise, who can truly sing, does a rendition of ‘Wanted Dead or Alive’ that rocks it and finds the deep soul of it. At that moment, you can glimpse the movie that Rock of Ages should have been.”

And Gleiberman is right. I was stoked to go see Rock of Ages yesterday afternoon, especially after loving both performances of the Broadway version that I caught. (Maybe it was the free-flowing booze in the theater that made me like the stage version so much?) The cast and the songs had me pumped, too. Even going in with a good attitude couldn’t save the movie that, truly, I thought might join the highfalutin bastion of flicks in my world — Coyote Ugly, Romy & Michele’s High School Reunion, Jawbreaker, and so on — that I consider deliciously outrageous (each in their own way) and are worth repeated, nearly weekly viewing.

But Gleiberman is also right that Tom Cruise was one of the only redeeming things about the movie. I think the word I would use to describe his performance is dedication. He just seemed into it, if that makes sense — really into the idea of who Stacee Jaxx was and going into that space full force. Cruise was clearly also dedicated to his fitness because, well, he had nice abs that were never covered up while he was on screen.

Who out there saw Rock of Ages? Do you agree that Tom Cruise’s performance was the movie’s only redeeming quality?

Tanner on Twitter: @EWTanStransky

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