Review: Cruise rocks in Broadway movie

By Vladimir Bunoan,

Posted at Jun 17 2012 06:14 PM | Updated as of Jun 18 2012 02:14 AM

MANILA, Philippines -- MiG Ayesa and the rest of the cast of Atlantis Productions' "Rock of Ages" can heave a sigh of relief, as the movie version of the Broadway musical will likely entice audiences to watch the original stage production.

The movie, which opened in theaters last Thursday -- one day before opening night at the RCBC Plaza -- is a likeable teaser for the stage version, which offers more '80s rock songs and opportunities to mine the comedy in the flimsy story line.

Both follow the same basic, simplistic plot. Two dreamers in Hollywood -- Sherrie is from Oklahoma who goes to L.A. to become a singer, while Drew patiently waits for his big break -- meet and fall in love at the Sunset Strip, circa 1987, against the backdrop of the Bourbon Room, which is facing financial difficulties. So this motley crew of rock 'n' roll fans try to save the bar from closure.

The play not only has a more extensive '80s soundtrack -- where's "The Search is Over" and "Oh, Sherrie"? -- but features more of the "sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll" lifestyle of the era.

The movie, on the other hand, appears like a well-scrubbed version of the play -- and even has a happier ending.

Director Adam Shankman brings the same camp gloss he utilized well in the movie version of "Hairspray." His "Rock of Ages" is entertaining but predictable and it feels like it was made in the 1980s. Think "Footloose."

But what the film lacks in depth, it makes up in terms of star power, led by Tom Cruise as the rock legend Stacee Jaxx (Ayesa in the local production).

Cruise, channeling Axl Rose, Mick Jagger and Jim Morrison, isn't merely having fun with the role, in the same way he tackled Les Grossman in "Tropic Thunder." While the situation -- and costumes -- Jaxx finds himself in are way over the top, Cruise seriously immerses himself in his character as a tired, aging rock star imprisoned by his sex-and-alcohol lifestyle. There's a certain blankness in his stare, as if to suggest his Jaxx's emptiness. Onstage, it's also all theatrics for Cruise, who gets to sing Bon Jovi's "Wanted Dead of Alive" and Def Leppard's "Pour Some Sugar on Me."

But when he rediscovers his passion upon hearing "Don't Stop Believing," Cruise as Jaxx lights up. Then he sings this Journey anthem in the end more like a Bruce Springsteen than a hair metal god.

The rest of the all-stars, such as Alec Baldwin, Russel Brand, Mary J. Blige and, most especially, Catherine Zeta-Jones as anti-rock activist, all embrace the material's sense of fun.

The film's lead stars -- Julianne Hough and Diego Boneta -- are serviceable but couldn't possibly compete with their co-actors.

Fortunately, they get to sing the movie's best songs, which when you get down to it, are the true crowd-drawers of the jukebox Broadway musical.

I can't wait to see Ayesa and company in all their big-haired glory.