Caught in the Act

Film Review: Tom Cruise Rocks

By Jared Bowen

July 16, 2012

alt title
(Image:Warner Bros.)

BOSTON — Tom Cruise is letting go. In “Rock of Ages,” the new film based on the 2009 Broadway musical, he stars as an Axl Rose-ish Stacee Jaxx. Betraying the supremely controlled image he maintains publicly, Cruise plays an aloof rocker with obscene fame and a penchant for fur wraps and pet monkeys. 

Just as in his hilarious turn as a movie executive in “Tropic Thunder” four years ago, Cruise captivates exquisitely by not being Tom Cruise, the tightly wound mega movie star.  His entrance in “Rock of Ages” is one to remember. The camera slowly moves in on a pile of half-dressed bodies atop a giant bed in a rock star’s tropically themed, backstage dressing room. It pans across Cruise’s leather clad leg, beyond his ruby-encrusted codpiece and onto his completely disoriented face, framed in 80s locks. It’s brilliant and we love his sexed up, alcohol-dazed singer immediately. Cruise steals this film as a singer slowly realizing his worth and whose charity can save a soon-to-be-shuttered bar in 1980s Los Angeles. Even more impressive, Cruise can sing. And if you grew up throbbing to 80s music in your local skate palace, you’ll be happy to know Cruise sings 80s well, especially as he dares to take on anthems like Def Leppard’s  “Pour Some Sugar on Me.”
Unfortunately, the film really begins and ends with Cruise. The plot is familiar. Girl (Julianne Hough) arrives in LA from Oklahoma to find fame and fortune. Girl’s possessions are stolen the moment she steps off the bus, but girl finds boy (Diego Boneta) and her pursuit of fame continues undaunted. It’s a story told better and with high camp in 2010’s “Burlesque.” The problem with “Rock of Ages” is that unlike Burlesque’s Aguilera-Cher cage match, it needs to wink at itself more. Unfortunately though, “Rock” plays it straight. Catherine Zeta-Jones is painfully earnest as a conservative pol’s wife—even when she is rocking out to “Hit Me With Your Best Shot.” Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand are fairly inspired as a club owner and his employee, but have very little with which to work. Every rose has its thorn—in this case it’s Cruise…and the rest of the film.
About the Author
Jared Bowen Jared Bowen
Jared Bowen is WGBH’s Emmy Award-winning Executive Editor and Host for Arts. 


Support for WGBH is provided by:
Become a WGBH sponsor