Musical. Directed by Adam Shankman. Starring Diego Boneta, Julianne Hough and Tom Cruise. (PG-13. 123 minutes. At Bay Area theaters.)
Some people hate metal. Def Leppard, Poison, all those guys in their crotch-happy spandex - hate ‘em. The simplistic guitar riffs and caterwauling vocals - hate. The ridiculous Pomeranian hairdos - hate, hate, hate.
But "Rock of Ages," based on the popular jukebox musical, doesn’t require anyone to love metal, or even like it. It only requires us to laugh at it - and other exemplars of bloated ‘80s pop, from Starship to Journey - and it does so with a campy and attitudinous spirit that’s hard to resist.
No matter how you feel about Guns N’ Roses, Tom Cruise’s as a bandanna-headed Axl Rose type will hit you as the purest bit of genius in the man’s entire film career.
The plot is standard musical hokum. The central, boring love story brings together curly-haired Drew (Diego Boneta) and flaxen-haired Sherrie (Julianne Hough), who arrives in 1987 L.A. with a suitcase full of LPs. Both are aspiring rockers who work at a dive called the Bourbon. This isn’t a serious movie by any stretch: Its charms stem from the juicy thrill of seeing the ‘80s caricatured and karaoke-fied by Hollywood A-listers making delicious, willing fools of themselves.
With his singeing singing range, devil-headed codpiece and posture of bare-chested narcissistic defiance, Cruise is a revelation - and a reminder that he’s always at his best in wildly transformative character parts. And really, what’s more transformative than "Pour Some Sugar on Me"? As the crummy Bourbon club owner and his quip-shooting sidekick, Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand are only somewhat less revelatory: They sing a duet that’s bound for YouTube-tribute glory.
Director Adam Shankman of "Hairspray" fame once again utilizes several liquid tons of atomizing aerosol beauty product. Whether Shankman can make a feature-length film with a bald cast remains to be seen, but for now there is no one better for getting at the roots of a bygone era.