"Rock of Ages"

Richard's Review: 3 1/2 stars

The theatre near you where "Rock of Ages" is playing isn't simply a movie theatre showing a new musical. It's actually the place where real rock and roll went to die. Despite the title, the popular Broadway karaoke musical doesn't rock, although it does go on for ages.

The framework on which the Greatest Hits of Hair Metal hangs is a typical story about a small-town girl who moves to Hollywood. Sherrie Christian (played by Julianne Hough) is a naïve, dyed-in-the-wool rock fan who arrives in Los Angeles circa 1987 with a suitcase full of LPs, a gallon of Aqua Net and a dream to become a singer. She lands a job at the Bourbon Room, the coolest bar on the Sunset Strip, which is run by Dennis Dupree (played by Alex Baldwin). Once Sherrie is hired she falls for Drew (Diego Boneta), a handsome rock star wannabe.

On the night of the biggest show of the year -- and a showcase staged by Stace Jaxx (played by Tom Cruise) -- the audience sees dreams come true for some characters and shatter for others in this story.

"Rock of Ages" contains a couple things I never thought I'd see, including a rear view close-up of Tom Cruise's bottomless chaps and Alec Baldwin diving into a mosh pit. The movie also contains one thing I've dreamed about for years -- a monkey butler who fetches bottles of scotch and looks good in a suit. "Rock of Ages" is that kind of movie and if you surrender yourself to its over-the-top feel you may have a good time.

Cruise pours some sugar on this role as he plays superstar Jaxx, the "most unreliable man in the music business." He's Robert Plant with Axl Rose's attitude and Prince's revealing chaps. On stage Jaxx moves like an alien Iggy Pop. Off stage, however, he staggers through life searching for the perfect song and the perfect sound, which apparently sounds a lot like Journey.

It's still not real rock and roll, but the movie does rock a little harder when Cruise is on screen.

Paul Giamatti co-stars as a slimy music manager who says things like, "I wish the true part was falser." Giamatti and Baldwin supply some lighter moments in the film, while Catherine Zeta-Jones (singing "We're Not Gonna Take It") steals the show as the Tipper Gore-like wife of the mayor who wants to end Jaxx's "filthy little music sex ride."

The 1984 hit is given a full scale 80's video treatment here, complete with teased hair and syncopated choreography. It's more musical theatre than Twisted Sister, but it has the energy that other parts of the movie lack.

That said, no amount of frenetic editing can spice up some of the musical numbers and the two leads, Hough and Boneta. They are as bland as the rock ballads they sing.

"Rock of Ages" has some of the most enthusiastic pole dancing ever seen on screen, an unexpectedly fun performance from Tom Cruise and songs moviegoers will recognize. But it feels like a new twist on the oldies station you would listen to on the way to work.

"That's My Boy"

Richard's Review: 0 stars

At the screening of the R-rated (for raunchy and redundant, no doubt) movie "That's My Boy" I witnessed something special -- but not in a good way. I can't help but think that what I saw was some kind of performance art, where people who should know better do awful things and charge you 10 bucks to watch. I hope this is some kind of postmodern art project, because comedy it ain't.

Adam Sandler plays Donny Berger, a party animal who, at age 13, engaged in extracurricular activities with his homeroom teacher (Eva Amurri). When their lovemaking interrupted the school's graduation ceremony, she was sent to jail. He was left to raise their baby, Han Solo Berger (Andy Samberg), with disastrous results.

Cut to present day. Father and son are estranged and Donnie's glory days are behind him. He needs $43,000 to pay off back taxes or he's going to jail. He turns to the one person he knows might have the money, his son, now a wealthy businessman on the eve of getting married.

With the release of "That's My Boy" Sandler turns the corner from tiresome to embarrassing. It's hard to imagine a lazier rehashing of all the man-children he has played in the past. There's shades of Mr. Deeds, Billy Madison and Happy Gilmour here, topped off with a grating New England character voice that sounds like a cross between screeching tires and a can opener opening a can of Boston Baked Beans.

By the time Sandler trades lines with a dirty old oven mitt, you realize his performance makes The Three Stooges look refined.

Sandler doesn't have much to work with in this script. It's a collection of spit takes, curse words and an old dignified looking woman forced to do and say outrageous things.

Instead of writing jokes, screenwriter David Caspe has simply found the most inappropriate way to forward a scene and run with it.

There are a couple of giggles, although the ratio of laughs to awkward audience silence is low in this 114-minute movie. There's a strip joint that serves breakfast called Bacon & Legs, a good Charlie Sheen line and (spoiler alert) a good gag involving a couple of Sarandons. But many of the jokes are ruined by clumsy writing.

The tattoo gag in the trailer, where Han shows off a stretched, New Kids on the Block back tattoo he got in grade three, is a funny visual joke that is muted by Donnie's yelping, "It's all distorted! The heads are huge!" We get it. The joke is obvious and funny and doesn't need to be explained, especially in that annoying voice.

Vanilla Ice, cast as Han's uncle, is a novelty. He's a porn movie level actor, which works well here because the movie has a porn movie twist. The less said about it the better. There will be no spoilers here.

If "Billy Madison" wasn't immature enough for you or if you thought "Happy Madison" should have been more infantile then "That's My Boy" may be for you. All others beware.