No hair is thick enough to tease much joy from “Rock of Ages,” a disposable adaptation of Broadway’s hackneyed 1980s jukebox musical.
Without the fist-pumping revelry (and shared embarrassment) of the live experience, “Rock of Ages” is two hours of celebrity karaoke.
Director Adam Shankman blandly mimics the strut and style of classic MTV while seriously overplaying his one ace: The stunt-casting of Tom Cruise as desiccated glam god Stacee Jaxx.
Any resemblance to Axl Rose is purely intentional. In butt-less chaps, metal codpiece, bandana and eyeliner, the tattooed Cruise spooks this ’80s-themed Halloween party far too long. What might have been an amusing cameo grows thin with repetition.
If you’ve seen the pictures, you’ve seen the performance.
Cruise’s outsize presence also tilts the story from featherweight leads who can’t hack the competition.
Julianne Hough (from TV’s “Dancing With the Stars”) and newcomer Diego Boneta are the young lovers slinging drinks.
With a screenplay by Justin Theroux, Chris D’Arienzo and Allan Loeb (adapted from D’Arienzo’s stage musical), “Rock of Ages” sets the boy-meets-girl story against a “Footloose” background of church ladies picketing the sinful nightclub.
Never mind. The pull here is name-brand stars (Cruise, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Alec Baldwin, Russell Brand, Paul Giamatti, Mary J. Blige) dolled up in ’80s drag and belting, competently, a couple dozen metal staples, including “I Love Rock and Roll” and “Oh, Sherrie.”
Only Baldwin and Brand, as the club operators who want to know what love is, are much fun. Rita Ryack’s costumes aren’t outrageous enough and Mia Michaels’s choreography is no better than the TV show that apparently got Hough this squandered gig.
“Rock of Ages,” from New Line Cinema, is playing across the U.S. Rating: *1/2 (Evans)
‘That’s My Boy’
In “That’s My Boy,” an obnoxious schoolboy has sex -- a lot of sex -- with his deranged teacher. When their affair becomes known, she’s pregnant and sent up for 30 years. He’s charged with custody of their child as soon as he turns 18.
The father grows up (using the term loosely) to be Adam Sandler; the child to be Andy Samberg. They have a falling out.
The son makes good in the financial world and falls in love. The father shows up for the wedding.
In “La Cage aux Folles,” from which this plot is reworked, the embarrassing parent is a drag queen. Here he’s a moron.
All the jokes -- about penises, vaginas, fat people, dirty-mouthed old ladies and the endless humiliation of Andy Samberg - - hit the same outrageous, unfunny note. (The director is Sean Anders.)
The running gag is that the rich wedding guests find vulgar dad funny and refreshing.
After a while, Sandler’s Al-Pacino-meets-Curly-Howard rasp took on the menace of a funhouse nightmare. This may be the ugliest movie I’ve ever seen.
“That’s My Boy,” from Sony pictures, is playing across the U.S. Rating: No stars (Seligman)
‘Woman in the Fifth’
The atmospheric French-Polish mystery “The Woman in the Fifth” opens with an American novelist (Ethan Hawke) landing in Paris. He informs border security he’ll be helping out his wife by taking care of their daughter.
We soon learn that his wife has a restraining order against him. We don’t know why.
He’s robbed and winds up in a horrid room in a skid-row hotel above a cafe. At a party he meets the alluring woman of the title (Kristin Scott Thomas), who invites him home.
Their sex has a comic perversity that would have thrilled Nabokov. Is it the director’s joke that her apartment is in the second arrondissement, not the fifth? And why does she seem to know him so well?
The hotel owner hires him to sit in a windowless room in what appears to be an electrical substation, buzzing in visitors who ask for M. Monde. What do they want?
A murder. A disappearance. A hint of the supernatural. Events grow increasingly bizarre and inexplicable. Are we witnessing them through the fantasy of a lunatic?
Looking gorgeous, Hawke is perfect as a man half in agony and half blank. Scott Thomas is as magnetic as her character is meant to be, and twice as funny.
And the fine young Polish actress Joanna Kulig (currently she’s also very good in the very bad “Elles,” playing a prostitute with more nuance than the role deserves) is delicate but not fragile as a waitress at the cafe who’s drawn to the writer.
The director, Pawel Pawlikowski, working from a novel by Douglas Kennedy, and with help from a haunting score by Max de Wardener, has put together a lusciously disquieting film. Does a movie have to make sense to be good?
“The Woman in the Fifth,” from ATO Pictures, is playing in New York, Washington, Seattle, San Diego and San Francisco. Rating: *** (Seligman)
What the Stars Mean: **** Excellent *** Good ** Average * Poor (No stars) Worthless
(Greg Evans and Craig Seligman are critics for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are his own.)
Muse highlights include Jeremy Gerard on theater and Lewis Lapham on books.