The hard-rock, heavy-metal retro musical “Rock of Ages” might seem like a movie natural, but Adam Shankman (whose “Hairspray” was a delight) never locates the right tone. You can’t blame him exactly. However you play up this material – as camp, melodrama, anthem, or goof – it sags under the weight of its lightweight pretensions.
Set in 1987, it features two leads of surpassing blandness, Julianne Hough’s Sherrie, newly arrived from Tulsa, Okla., to make it in Hollywood as a singer, and Diego Boneta’s Drew, an aspiring rocker who, all too fittingly, ends up in a boy band. (We’re supposed to think he deserves better.) What little scenery there is to steal is pilfered by Alec Baldwin as a Sunset Strip rock club owner and Tom Cruise as the strung-out rock idol Stacee Jaxx. Cruise is always at his best when he’s playing against type (in this case, against his own movie-star glam image). Paul Giamatti, as Jaxx’s sleazoid manager, does his utmost to give a real performance amid all the retro ridiculousness.
Warning: If you have an allergic reaction to songs like “Take Me Home Tonight” and “I Want to Know What Love Is,” do not venture within 10 miles of this movie. Grade: C (Rated PG-13 for sexual content, suggestive dancing, some heavy drinking, and language.)