Don't Think, Just Enjoy Bawdy 'Rock Of Ages'

The new movie based on the Broadway show built on hit songs from the 1980s is a guilty pleasure.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

On most Fridays, we get a movie review from LA Times critic Kenneth Turan - this morning, a movie that takes us back to the big hair days of rock and roll. "Rock of Ages" began life as a Broadway musical built around some of the classics of 1980s rock. Here's Ken's take.

KENNETH TURAN, BYLINE: "Rock of Ages" is the guiltiest of guilty pleasures. It's a film that proves that unstoppable energy, a bawdy sense of fun and Tom Cruise in backless leather pants can be counted on to triumph over good taste every time.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I WANNA ROCK")

DIEGO BONETA: (As Drew Boley) (Singing) I wanna rock.

TURAN: The year is 1987 and corn-fed aspiring singer Sherrie is taking a Greyhound bus from her home in Oklahoma direct to Los Angeles' Sunset Strip. There she meets Drew, also a squeaky clean rocker.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I WANNA ROCK")

BONETA: (As Drew Boley) (Singing) Turn it down, you say. Well, all I got to say to you is time and time again no, no, no.

TURAN: He gets her a job at the Bourbon Room, the movie's pumped up version of the Whiskey A-Go-Go. A top attraction at the Bourbon Room is ultimate rock god Stacee Jaxx, played by Cruise. He's heavily tattooed, heroically self-absorbed, and he oozes wicked charisma in the most wasted way.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "ROCK OF AGES")

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: You know, some people have said you've become quite difficult to work with, that you're constantly late, and the crew says, even sometimes, nonsensical.

TOM CRUISE: (As Stacee Jaxx) Let me tell you something. I know me better than anyone. Because I live in here.

TURAN: Young Sherrie and Drew are obviously made for each other, but it's going to take the entire film for them to work out their predictable issues. In the interim, lots of supporting actors take up the slack, including Catherine Zeta-Jones. She plays a moralistic crusader who wants to close the Bourbon Room and all it represents.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "ROCK OF AGES")

CATHERINE ZETA-JONES: (as Patricia Whitmore) This man is responsible for so much filth. He's like a machine that spews out three things. Sex...

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: Oh.

ZETA-JONES: (as Patricia Whitmore) ...hateful music.

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: Oh.

ZETA-JONES: (as Patricia Whitmore) ...and sex.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, 'HIT ME WITH YOUR BEST SHOT")

ZETA-JONES: (Singing) Hit me with your best shot...

TURAN: The dance number Zeta-Jones and her cohorts do to that Pat Benatar tune is an example of the unexpected burlesque settings "Rock of Ages" dreams up for its songs.

Foreigner's "Waiting for a Girl Like You" starts at a urinal, and to describe what's done with REO Speedwagon's "Can't Fight This Feeling" would ruin the fun. And fun is definitely the word here. As the song says, they built this city on rock and roll.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WE BUILT THIS CITY")

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (Singing) We built this city, we built this city on rock and roll. Who counts the money...

MONTAGNE: Kenneth Turan reviews movies for MORNING EDITION and the Los Angeles Times.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WE BUILT THIS CITY")

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (Singing) Who rides the wrecking ball in to our guitars?

MONTAGNE: This is NPR News.

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