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The Weekend Australian - Review - - Film -

IS not lik­ing mu­si­cal the­atre as far along the scale of grumpi­ness as, say, telling your own kids Santa Claus is made-up? The ques­tion is a re­dun­dant one for the most part, since I cer­tainly have to own up to the first and as for the sec­ond — well, let’s just say I dis­ap­pointed my boys a long time ago. (In, they would add, so many ways. But that’s an­other story.)

I know I’m in the mi­nor­ity around this place for my dim view of mu­si­cals, but I fear hav­ing got this far through life see­ing less artis­tic merit in them than toe­nail paint­ing or ant farm­ing, there seems lit­tle point con­tem­plat­ing change now.

But why the prej­u­dice? There’s noth­ing gener­i­cally dis­tin­guish­ing about the form that one could ob­ject to, other than that it is peo­ple singing songs on stage with some link­ing bits of di­a­logue. Just like opera, re­ally. And some of its defin­ing ex­am­ples are truly ter­rific — you’d hardly dis­miss West Side Story as not be­ing great art, and I’m pretty sure I had the mu­sic of Joseph’s Coat and Je­sus Christ sod­ding Su­per­star drilled in to me at roughly the same time I was ac­quir­ing sim­ple lan­guage skills.

OK, the An­drew Lloyd Web­ber ex­am­ples qual­ify as sublime only de­pend­ing on what you think of the ge­nial English­man’s com­po­si­tion skills. But, still, the prospect of be­ing locked in a the­atre with a bunch of peo­ple si­mul­ta­ne­ously leap­ing about and singing stuff in a des­per­ate bid to hold my at­ten­tion never quite ap­pealed. If I want to hear mu­sic, I’ll go to a concert.

So the adaptation of Rock of Ages from wildly suc­cess­ful Broad­way show to a film star­ring Diego Boneta and Ju­lianne Hough in an ensem­ble cast that also in­cludes Tom Cruise, Rus­sell Brand, Cather­ine Zeta-Jones, Mary J. Blige and Alec Bald­win had me more than a lit­tle scep­ti­cal. Not only was it a mu­si­cal but it was one de­lib­er­ately de­signed to butcher the mu­sic of my teenage years.

And while I might have thought I was way too cool in the 1980s to be lis­ten­ing to the big-hair of­fend­ers of this piece like Van Halen and Def Lep­pard, these were nonethe­less songs that had at least some con­nec­tion to ev­ery sig­nif­i­cant mo­ment of sev­eral years of my life. And the truth is, ev­ery indie mu­sic kid — which is how that younger self would like to be re­mem­bered — still has at some time had a dirty big gui­tar riff float­ing their boat.

All of this is a round­about way of say­ing Rock of Ages (Road­show, M, $26.95) should have missed its mark en­tirely with me — but in fact it’s a hoot. Boneta and Hough are the starry-eyed kids look­ing to crack it big in show­biz, Cruise is the rock god Stacee Jaxx, Bald­win is the night­club owner look­ing to get out of debt and Zeta-Jones is the moral ma­jor­ity wowser, all with some as­ton­ish­ingly good mu­si­cal per­for­mances link­ing the di­a­logue. (And if you doubt Cruise can hold a tune, just think back to, oh, nearly ev­ery film he’s ever made: there’s al­ways been a song­bird there just burst­ing to get out.)

I still don’t much like mu­si­cals. There’s usu­ally some­thing a bit try-hard and con­fected about them. But I’m pre­pared to soften.

This week

(M) Fox (165min, $24.95)

(MA15+) Road­show (96min, $39.95)

(M) Warner Bros (536min, $29.95)

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