Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Rocker (2008)

Why do people care about what teenager's think about movies? The average 16 year old has only had a vested interest in watching movies for about 5 years, and most of the films they've seen have not only been made in their lifetime, but within the 5 years that they've been watching. They have no life experience to relate to the films, and no point of reference for anything made before they started watching. When you listen to them talk, they all say the same thing, "Insert New Movie Here" is best movie ever made. As if the best movie ever made not only happened to be made in their lifetime, but also happened to be released in the last week. Can we not give time a few years to reflect before we call something the best thing ever?

All of this rambling brings me to "The Rocker," the cinematic maiden voyage of Rainn Wilson, from T.V.'s "The Office." He plays Robert "Fish" Fishman, the former drummer of 80's Hair-Metal band, Vesuvius. Before Vesuvius hit it big, the other members ousted Fish, dooming him to a life of failed dreams and cubicle work. Twenty years after the fact, Fish is unemployed and living in his sister's attic. One day his teenage nephew reluctantly asks him to drum in his band, A.D.D. (whether intentional or not the film succeeds in picking the kind of band name a high-schooler would pick), for a one night high school prom performance.

Fish eventually agrees, and we are then expected to believe that this man-child who is used to playing dumb loud rock n' roll songs about partying and sexy girls is going to lead this band of teenagers (fat kid, low-self-esteem-girl, & sensitive lead singer with daddy issues), and their generic Top 40 Pop sound from the high school prom to giant arena shows.

The film is another in a long line of comedies about adults that don't want to grow up, not unlike "40 Year Old Virgin" or "Knocked Up," but the difference is that those movies were actually made for adults, who ideally, would be the demographic that would actually identify with Fish. I'm not quite sure who "the Rocker" is made for. Little kids will have no interest in watching a has-been drummer act like they do. The movie is not sexy, violent, or vulgar enough for teenagers to think it's "cool," and it's too light-hearted and toothless for adults to enjoy.

One of the things that 'the Rocker' gets right is the stuff with Vesuvius which pokes fun at the goofiness and excess of Hair Metal. Will Arnett and Fred Armisen are both great in their roles in the band, and the opening sequence in the movie is among the film's strongest. As I sat in the theater with a couple of teenagers, I sensed that they weren't really in on the joke, they just perceived Hair Metal in general as being "stupid." Maybe they're right, but it no less stupid than the stuff A.D.D. puts out.

All in all, there are a lot of people in this movie that I like, the aforementioned Arnett & Armisen, but also Jeff Garlin is wasted, Christina Applegate is just there, and the great Jane Lynch also has nothing to do. The movie is ultimately too harmless to pick on, but it's just kind of disappointing to think that there could of been a good movie made out of this material.

I screened "the Rocker" as a "tech" screening at the Tinseltown 20.

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