There is logic, there is movie logic, and then there is the kind of “throw some big musical numbers and some good-looking stars on the screen and no one will notice that it makes no sense whatsoever — just look at ‘Flashdance'” logic. “Rock Star” is in that last category, and while it is not as preposterously entertaining as “Flashdance,” it is still has moments of guilty pleasure.
The story goes back to “Cinderella,” or at least to “Rocky,” with a little bit from Pinocchio. Chris (Mark Wahlberg) a 1980’s metal band’s biggest fan, gets picked out of obscurity to become the band’s new lead singer, only to find that dreams are not always what they seem from the outside. The equivalent of Pinocchio’s visit to the place where boys get turned into donkeys is Chris’s life of sex, drugs, and rock and roll, with increasingly more of the former. But before you can say “This would make a great episode of ‘Behind the Music,'” he sees the error of his ways, and finds the girl who loved him all along. I think he even invents grunge, the next new music craze, because he somehow goes from shrieking hard rock in leather pants to playing anquished ballads in a Seattle coffee house. Then there’s the clinch and the fade-out, followed by the movie’s most entertaining scenes, the out-takes shown during the credits.
The movie’s biggest problem is that it cannot make up its mind whether it wants to be a satire or play it straight. It tweaks the rock star worldview now and then, but no one could ever send up metal bands better than that masterpiece mockumentary, “This is Spinal Tap,” and they do not even try. That leaves us with an umimaginative rise-and-fall story that never really captures our hearts or even our attention. At least that makes it easier to ignore major lapses in the storyline.
Wahlberg enjoys himself onscreen, but it is impossible not to compare this to his performance in the vastly more complex and intelligent “Boogie Nights,” another movie about a naive young man who is brought into a world of debauchery and corruption. Jennifer Anniston is woefully underused in a standard-issue “good woman who stands by her man and holds on to her values” role that gives her only a few brief opportunities to show her crackerjack timing and ability to give snap to anything within 50 miles of a comeback. It is nice to see the musicians played by real-life guitarists Zakk Wylde and Brian Vander Ark, bassist Jeff Pilson and drummer Jason Bonham.
Parents should know that the movie is rated R for very strong language, nudity, explicit sexual situations (including group sex and bisexual encounters), and abuse of every kind of licit and illicit substance (even hotel room furniture). Many characters give the finger. There is an explicit close-up of a very unhygienic nipple-piercing. A gay character is insulted and fired from his job. The overall message is that the sex-drugs-and-rock-and-roll lifestyle is empty and destructive, but not unappealing, for a short time anyway. Interestingly, there is some suggestion that it is a cynical marketing strategy, though that appears to be rationalization. One nice shift from the usual format for this kind of movie is that Chris has parents who are entirely loving and supportive of his passion for metal, and genuinely enjoy the music themselves.
Families who see this movie should talk about how some people limit themselves to dreaming that they can be exactly like someone else, instead of thinking about dreams that allow them to be most themselves. Why was it so easy for Chris to lose his way, while Emily saw that it was wrong? Why was it important for her to have her own life and career? What do we learn about Chris from the way he gets back on stage after his fall? What does he learn about himself? Do you agree with the comment that “we all owe somebody an apology along the way?”
Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy This Is Spinal Tap (Special Edition) (mature material). They also might like to compare the Steel Dragons’s song “Anything Goes” to a classic song by the same name by Cole Porter.