You know when Tom Cruise went crazy and the world turned their back on him? I didn’t. I was there, standing in line to see War Of The Worlds, his 2005 sci-fi epic which has a firm place in my top 10 favourite films of all time. Being a loopy Scientologist wasn’t enough to turn me off of one of my favourite actors, not when he was still doing work that I enjoyed watching.
Which brings us to Cruise’s latest and possibly greatest role, as the burnt out rocker Stacee Jaxx in the new musical Rock of Ages, in theatres this weekend. Even with all the great 80’s hair metal music, even with all the fun performances from Hollywood A-listers like Alec Baldwin, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Paul Giamatti and Russell Brand, the reason I couldn’t get enough of this film was how absolutely, absurdly awesome Tom Cruise is.
Set in 1987, a time when Poison, Bon Jovi, Def Leppard and others ruled the airwaves, Rock of Ages is the story of Sherri (Julianne Hough) and Drew (Diego Boneta), two young lovers working at The Bourbon Room, looking to make it big in rock and roll. In the meantime, the new L.A. mayor (Brian Cranston) and his wife (Zeta-Jones) are looking to close down The Bourbon Room to save kids from rock and roll. Finally, Rolling Stone Magazine’s Constance Sack (Malin Akerman) is on assignment to interview Stacee Jaxx prior to ditching his band Arsenal to go solo.
The story is the story – serviceable and light. When you watch a musical like Rock of Ages, it really is the music that matters, and if you grew up in the late 80’s or simply love to rock, you won’t be let down by the great renditions of classic power ballads and rock anthems. All of the film’s stars are rock solid (see what I did), though definite highlights come from Zeta-Jones, along with Brand and Baldwin as the guys who run the Bourbon Room.
Then, of course, there’s Tom Cruise, the last guy you’d say embodies the spirit of rock and who turns in just a spectacular performance as Stacee Jaxx. Cruise looks the part, all chiselled and tattooed, and his vocals on songs like Wanted Dead or Alive and Pour Some Sugar On Me are great. He plays spaced out beautifully, as if nothing is going to hold him back from nailing this part. And he does so perfectly.
There are a few slow places during the film, to be sure, but overall I sat through Rock of Ages with a huge grin on my face. It’s over the top, exciting, electric and features a soundtrack that will possibly have your fists pumping in the theatre. And if you stopped watching Tom Cruise flicks a while back, now is a good time to give him another look.