The plot of the film is broken into two main strands. The romantic storyline revolves around Drew (Diego Bonita) and Sherrie (Julianne Hough). He’s just a city boy, she’s just a small town girl from Oklahoma. Both are looking for fame in the Hollywood rock-and-roll scene. After a meet-cute on a street corner, Drew gets Sherrie a job at ‘The Bourbon Room’, the rock club he works at - and one of the quintessential rock clubs on the Sunset Strip. The two soon fall in love, and of course – as it’s a musical – they have a falling out due to a simple misunderstanding but they get back together at the end.
The second facet of the story is about The Bourbon Room and its managers. Buried under a pile of bills, the manager of the club Dennis Dupree (Alec Baldwin) and his right hand man Lonny (Russell Brand) have to come up with money, fast. Their prayers are answered by the famous group Arsenal will play their last show ever at The Bourbon Room before their singer Stacee Jaxx goes solo. There’s just one problem. The mayor’s wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones) is determined to shut down The Bourbon Room and to eliminate the influence of rock clubs on the L.A. strip. There are many illusions to a secret past which could explain Catherine Zeta Jones’ character’s motivation to destroy rock music in Los Angeles, but until we find out her secret, all we know is that she hates Stacee Jaxx more than any other rock star around.
What saves this movie most is the humorous and spirited fashion in which it was made, that and the ‘80s rock classics. Director Adam Schankman and the team of writers, who no doubt remember the 1980s, add subtle humor to many of the sequences. Characters are satirical takes on stereotypes; in the case of Stacee Jaxx, you can see real people being channeled into Cruise’s performance. The songs are also tweaked just a little, so that they fit the place in the story, and sometimes for a desired comedic effect. Two examples spring to mind. Firstly, Journey’s “Anyway You Want It” takes on a very different meaning when sung at a strip club, with dancers clacking their leather boots to the beat. Secondly, punning wordplay is used when Drew sings “Don’t Stop Believing” to Sherrie. In this movie it’s a song he is working on, and as he sings “for a smile they can share the night”, then he pauses and says “and then it goes on, and on, and on...” If you know the original song, you’ll smile at this scene.
Rock of Ages is a cheery musical that is a lot of fun to watch. The musical performances are great, and the songs stick with you for days after the movie is over. While it provides us with a far more glossed-over, family-friendly picture of '80s L.A. than the true drug induced swing of rock clubs at the time; this movie is fantastic if you're looking for a guilty pleasure film that makes you wish for just one night you could be on stage with any glam metal band from the infamous 1980s. It may fall trap to some formulaic and cheesy moments, Rock of Ages is still a fun journey that makes you want to stand up and sing along.