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Doug & the Movies: 'Rock of Ages'

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Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

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SALT LAKE CITY — Ah, it's the old showbiz story -- a young talented girl heads for tinsel town in search of fame and riches only to be hit with the harsh realities of the big city. You know the drill. She steps from the bus and within minutes her suitcase is stolen. It contained all of her worldly possessions including her favorite rock albums (the story is set in the ‘80s, so yes, albums).

Next, with nowhere to turn, another aspiring star, Drew (Diego Boneta) takes pity on her plight and helps her get a job at the legendary rock venue, the Bourbon, where he too awaits his break-out opportunity. Of course, they fall in love.

Well, that's the setup for "Rock of Ages." Julianne Hough steps into the role of Sherrie Christian, who ends up waiting tables at the Bourbon just as rock legend Stacee Jaxx appears for his solo debut. Tom Cruise is simply amazing delivering a totally believable, strange amalgam of glam metal icons of the ‘80s.

Jaxx arrives, ethereally weaving his way into the Bourbon, and he and the club's owner, Dennis (played wonderfully by Alec Baldwin) have a bizarre, brotherly exchange that sets up the Jaxx character beautifully. He's very strange, and when the shirtless Cruise, in leather and replete with tattoos, steps to the microphone he rocks the house. I mean, he's incredible.

There's not a bad effort in the bunch, but Tom Cruise is in a league of his own. This is an off-the-charts performance.

In attempting to get Jaxx on stage, Sherrie is spotted coming -- all very innocently -- from the star's dressing room and Drew misreads the situation. Both overreact and Sherrie quits and ends up on the street. Unable to find work and desperate, she ends up working in a "Gentlemen's Club."

Drew meanwhile, falls into the clutches of Paul Giamatti, playing Jaxx's manager, who tries to mould him into a boy band star. Will our two young lovers find their way back to each other and realize their dreams?

There are several great sub-plots running through "Rock of Ages." It seems Dennis, the club's owner and his partner, Lonny, have been smoldering for each other. The partnership, well, let's just say it expands. Baldwin and Russell Brand, who stars as Lonny, are terrific.

Then there's Catherine Zeta Jones. She's the mayor's wife and the question is, "Why is she so determined to shut down the Bourbon and ‘clean up' this part of Sunset Strip?" I leave the answer at the box office of your favorite theater.

Be aware, "Rock of Ages," while only carrying a PG-13 rating, delivers real sass. A lot of that sass is delivered by Julianne Hough. Not exactly a shrinking violet on "Dancing with the Stars" or in the movies "Burlesque" and "Footloose," Hough ramps it up for this role. She'll raise some eyebrows, but her performance is great.

There's not a bad effort in the bunch, but Tom Cruise is in a league of his own. This is an off-the-charts performance that has left even the most classic rockers green with envy.

I'm giving "Rock of Ages" 3 ½ stars.


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Doug Wright


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