It is still hard to believe but Mamma Mia grossed over £68m at the box office in the UK alone, proving that stage musical adaptations can be BIG business. Since then a number of musicals have been released with varying success – Footloose and the star studded Nine were notable disappointments while Fame outperformed expectations.
This summer it’s the turn of perhaps the highest profile musical release since Mamma Mia – Rock Of Ages. Since the first performance in Los Angeles in 2006 the stage show has been a huge hit around the world and has been consistently pulling in the punters since its launch in London last summer. Setting itself up as the alternative to Euro 2012, the stars seem to be aligning for a strong run at the box office, as long as the film meets the lofty expectations of fans of the stage show.
The thought of Justin Lee Collins in spandex belting out Can’t Fight This Feeling never really appealed to me so I haven’t seen the stage version and consequently, I’m not in a position to compare the two but I can confirm that Rock Of Ages the film is mostly brilliant fun. It’s a big, glitzy, overblown soft rock extravaganza that makes great use of most of its star studded cast and is well aware of the ridiculousness of much of the music and fashions of the 80s.
With the exception of the two leads, who are rather bland compared to the rest of the cast, the film benefits hugely from some great performances, particularly Tom Cruise, channelling Frank T.J.Mackey,as addled rock-god Stacie Jaxx and Alec Baldwin who steals every scene he’s in as the club manager. As you’d expect from two high class performers, Paul Giamatti and Catherine Zeta-Jones provide able support and Malin Akerman has a brilliant scene singing Foreigner’s ‘I Want To Know What Love Is’.
Obviously, the music plays a huge role and it’s almost relentless in its aural assault. As is sometimes the case with musicals, it can feel like you’re being shouted at for two hours and at a three minutes over that mark, it’s a shade overlong. There’s a particular subplot involving a strip club and an underused Mary J.Blige that could easily have been removed but just as the pace starts to flag, the satisfying big finale kicks off and you’re once again swept up in sheer the exuberance of it all.
If musicals aren’t your thing then there’s very little here to win you over but if you love tight pants, silly hair and big rock songs belted out by a game cast, you’ll be in Paradise City. Sorry.