Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.
USA, 2012. New Line Cinema, Corner Store Entertainment, Material Pictures, Offspring Entertainment. Screenplay by Justin Theroux, Chris D’Arienzo, Allan Loeb, based on the musical by Chris D’Arienzo. Cinematography by Bojan Bazelli. Produced by Jennifer Gibgot, Garrett Grant, Carl Levin, Tobey Maguire, Scott Prisand, Matt Weaver. Music by Adam Anders, Peer Astrom. Production Design by Jon Hutman. Costume Design by Rita Ryack. Film Editing by Emma E. Hickox.
Adam Shankman did wonders with bringing the stage musical of Hairspray to the big screen and here attempts to make lightning strike twice, but alas it is not to be. Based on the runaway hit pastiche musical that worked a series of the classic rock songs that you usually hear in an elevator into a weak plot, the film version, in focusing more on narrative than on wall-to-wall musical numbers, reveals the tinny substance of the story and flimsy nature of its characters. At the centre of the mayhem is a popular Los Angeles rock club whose owner (Alec Baldwin in a bad wig) is trying to keep things afloat with his second in command (Russell Brand in almost as a bad a wig) while a conservative politician (Bryan Cranston) tries to get election coverage out of speaking out against rock music and his zealous wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones) makes closing the club her personal mission. A sweet gal from nowhere (Julianne Hough) has shown up in L.A. with stars in her eyes, longing to become a singer; she falls in love with the club’s bartender (Diego Boneta) but soon loses him to his ambitions when his music career takes off and he becomes part of a soulless boy band. Punctuating the moments in between these unnecessary complications is the presence of Stacee Jaxx, a composite of every slimy rocker in plastic pants you ever loved hating back in the day but who, when played by Tom Cruise, comes off a bit too earnest and desperate to be rebellious (though kudos to Tom for getting his voice into decent shape for his songs). Some of the numbers are fun but very few of the performers are giving it their all, only the energetic Zeta-Jones, whose “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” is a highlight, makes an impression. A film like this isn’t meant to be important, of course, it’s meant to be so exuberant that its lack of importance is furthest from your mind, but it only has brief moments of reaching the level of escapist ecstasy that is required and so is ultimately not worth it.