There is an anxious - almost scary - moment in Rock of Ages, the over-the-top musical homage to 80s hair metal, power ballads and the excesses of that era.

It comes when Tom Cruise, who plays Stacee Jaxx, the "legendary" and lecherous leader of the band Arsenal, is about to sing Wanted Dead Or Alive.

The audience have already seen the 49-year-old actor's still-taut tummy and his butt cheeks, since he is wearing leather chaps in his first scene, but can he sing? Turns out, he's no Jon Bon Jovi, but he's not bad in a Glee-meets-Stars In Their Eyes sort of way.

Cruise's Jaxx is a combination of Axl Rose-like slither and sleaze when he's on stage, and the spiritual, stoned stupor of the Doors' Jim Morrison off stage.


Love him or hate him, Cruise is great, and along with Jaxx's "assistant", a pet baboon called "Hey Man" (a beautifully ridiculous example of 80s metal excess), they are the highlight of the film.

However, Rock of Ages, based on the Broadway show and directed by Adam Shankman (Hairspray), should come with an express warning; it is a full-on musical with 80s anthems galore and some inspired mash-ups, such as Foreigner's Juke Box Hero and Joan Jett's version of I Love Rock 'n' Roll.

And the plot is as corny and predictable as a hair metal ballad. Aspiring musician Drew (newcomer Diego Boneta) meets sweet, yet so very hot, small town singer Sherrie (Julianne Hough), they make love (actually, they kiss because the lovemaking is left to Jaxx and his floozies). Then Drew thinks Sherrie is hot for Jaxx, love bites, things get too fast for love, and love bleeds for a while. But then some sugar gets poured all over their love and it kickstarts their hearts once more.

While all this is going on, Jaxx's conniving manager Paul Gill (played brilliantly by Paul Giamatti) is busy ripping everyone off, venue owner Dennis (Alec Baldwin) and his friend/love interest Lonny (Russell Brand) are fighting to keep seminal Sunset Strip haunt the Bourbon Room open, and virtuous wife of the mayor Patricia Whitmore (Catherine Zeta-Jones), who has a hidden agenda of her own, is out to rid the world of the devil's music.

Rock of Ages sure is the sanitised, Glee-style take on the hedonistic days of the Strip. Back when Tommy Lee and his Motley Crue cronies stalked the bars on the prowl for "girls, girls, girls", as chronicled in the book The Dirt, the Bourbon Room would have been a far nastier, seedier place.

But this is a light-hearted, fun musical with occasional bits of cringe-inducing antics, like when Cruise - and there is no other way to describe this - sticks his tongue down the throat of Rolling Stone reporter Constance Sack.

So if you like Glee and have a penchant for singing along to Extreme's More Than Words or Pat Benatar's Hit Me With Your Best Shot at karaoke nights, then grab a bottle of bourbon and get into it.

Stars: 3/5
Cast: Tom Cruise, Julianne Hough, Diego Boneta, Alec Baldwin, Russell Brand, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Bryan Cranston, Mary J. Blige, Paul Giamatti
Director: Adam Shankman
Rating: M (offensive language, sexual references)
Running time: 123 mins
Verdict: It's a musical, not a dirty Motley Crue memoir.


- TimeOut