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‘Rocker’ plays more like broken record

POSTED: September 25, 2008 5:00 a.m.
/Twentieth Century Fox

From left, Emma Stone, Rainn Wilson, Josh Gad and Teddy Geiger star in "The Rocker," a movie that repeats a tired story line.

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"The Rocker" is supposed to be a star vehicle for Rainn Wilson of "The Office." Problem is, Wilson is upstaged by almost everyone else in the cast.

Wilson plays Robert "Fish" Fishman, a heavy metal drummer who is dumped by his bandmates just as the band hits the big time. Fish obsesses over this betrayal and his near miss with rock glory for 20 years, his life slowly falling apart in the process.

The door to redemption opens when his nephew Matt (Josh Gad) and bandmates Curtis (Teddy Geiger) and Amelia (Emma Stone) are left in the lurch by their drummer just before their prom gig. Improbably, the band plays only a few shows, appears in a viral video that circulates the Web, and a label signs them and launches them on a tour.

Curtis’ mom (Christina Applegate) eventually joins the band on the road, serving as a love interest for Fish and trying to help the supporting cast rescue the movie.

But will Fish’s refusal to act like an adult and get out of the ’80s ruin his second golden opportunity? Can Matt find the confidence to chat up girls? And are Curtis and Amelia in love or just in a band?

To find out, tune in to the next episode of, "We’ve Seen All This Before."

We’ve seen too many comedies about 30-something men who refuse to grow up. Grown men behaving like boys is currently the most worn-out gag in Hollywood.

We’ve seen movies that parody the ’80s heavy-metal era. The only one that has ever mattered is "This is Spinal Tap," but that’s yet another truth Hollywood refuses to believe. (When a VH1 show makes your movie concept look like an old joke, you’ve got major problems.)

And we’ve seen all three of the romantic subplots ad nauseam.

"The Rocker" has its funny moments, but few of them come from Wilson, who does little more than imitate Jack Black in "School of Rock." In fact, "The Rocker" borrows way too much from "School." Substitute recent high school graduates for pre-teens, take the story out of the classroom, and there aren’t many differences.

Gad’s unassuming, subtle comedic timing leaves more of a lasting impression than Wilson’s noisy pratfalls and scat jokes. And Applegate single-handedly makes the second half of the movie palatable.

The soundtrack is also, thankfully, packed with snappy pop tunes that keep us interested when things slow down, much like the songs in "That Thing You Do."

So who should see "The Rocker"?

Devoted fans of Wilson and anyone who still gets a chuckle from actors dressed in hair metal wigs and spandex. Otherwise, it’s a rehash of rock musicals and underdog movies, formulated to highlight Wilson and his fellow up-and-coming cast mates.

The movie is a bit like the average cover band, come to think of it: completely unoriginal, but better than drinking in silence.

It’s also similar to "Walk Hard," another musically themed movie built around a very funny actor (John C. Reilly) who waited years for a shot to headline a film. Both prove their leading men can cut it on the big screen but also fade quickly from memory.

So, Rainn Wilson, welcome to starring roles. Let’s hope the next one goes up to 11.

Jeff Marker is a media studies professor at Gainesville State College.



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