Rock Star

Movie Information

Genre: Musical Drama
Director: Stephen Herek
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Jennifer Aniston, Jason Flemyng, Timothy Olyphant, Timothy Spall
Rated: R

Rock Star scales new heights … of predictability. The film is almost consistently disappointing. There aren’t more than a handful of truly great rock ‘n’ roll movies and Rock Star doesn’t come anywhere near that select pantheon. This started life under the more apt title, Metal God and later was called So You Want to Be a Rock Star?, which is actually nearer the mark (or Marky Mark) as concerns the sort of cautionary tale the film is. Mark Wahlberg stars as Chris “Izzy” Cole, the guiding force behind and lead singer for a “tribute” band (Blood Pollution) that emulates a heavy-metal band called Steel Dragon. There’s no denying that Wahlberg is good in the role, but the role itself is underwhelming. Festooned with the long tresses of a generic heavy-metal rocker, Wahlberg is appealing enough, but somehow the effect is more that of a little boy playing dress-up than anything close to reality. That may be intentional, since Cole is unbelievably presented as the ultimate innocent who falls into the terrors of “sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll,” but it doesn’t really work. Blame the script, the direction, and, yes, the music. A screenplay about the perils of rock stardom that is built on the concept of a basically decent guy seduced by all the standard evils of the rock world and has him losing his real friends and ditching his loyal girlfriend (Jennifer Anniston, TV’s Friends) is about as fresh as month-old bread. Like Wahlberg’s wig, the effect is generic. Unlike Wahlberg himself, the effect isn’t very appealing — and it certainly isn’t very daring. The image of the world of the rock superstar in Rock Star is so sanitized that it could pass muster in a TV movie with a few trims and some tamed-down dialogue. There’s not much sex, there aren’t many drugs, and the rock ‘n’ roll is startlingly unmemorable. (A movie about music with indifferent songs is in trouble from the onset.) Moreover, the character is strangely motivated, not being in the least interested in creating anything of his own, but obsessed with emulating every aspect of his idol, Bobby Beers (Jason Flemyng, Snatch). Understanding a character who wants to be a copy of somebody else isn’t easy. It becomes harder when the character he’s trying to be turns out to be totally fabricated. When it’s revealed that Bobby Beers is a burned out, confused gay man wearing a long wig and playing a part, it only mildly fazes Cole, who steps right into his fantasy of playing at being someone else’s fantasy. All of this might have worked if the script had sufficient wit to follow it, but it doesn’t. Instead it plods on predictably, charting Cole’s moral downfall and disillusionment with the world he thought he wanted. Setting all this up with an absolutely inane series of parallel scenes — Cole is dumped by his original band in exactly the same way we see Beers later dumped by his; Cole annoys Beers at a concert by singing along too much like him only to have Cole experience the same thing later — only stresses the falseness of it all. Josie and the Pussycats seems sincere by comparison with this by-the-numbers approach. Worst of all, though, is the fact that neither the script, nor Stephen Herek’s direction evidences any love for rock ‘n’ roll. If anything, contempt for the music, for its practitioners, and, by extension, its audience is constantly seeping in around the edges. When the film indulges in a cheap joke about Beers’ subsequent “more dignified” career as a member of a comically bad dance troupe at the end, that feeling becomes inescapable and whatever merit the film had turns sour. Yes, there is good work here — by Wahlberg, Flemyng and, especially, Timothy Spall (Topsy Turvy) as a lecherous road manager with a heart of gold — but it’s entombed in a soulless movie.

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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