Rock Star, starring Mark Wahlberg and Jennifer Aniston, has everything you would expect from a film about an ’80s heavy metal band: hair spray, leather pants, big hair, mascara and overall extravagance.
Who could ask for anything more? The answer is anyone, because Rock Star‘s real story – only touched upon in the movie – was the sweet and simple love story between Wahlberg and Aniston’s characters. For all the pomp and circumstance that director Steven Herek bought into to making this movie, he forgot one thing: less is more.
The movie starts out in Pittsburgh in the ’80s when Wahlberg’s character, Chris Cole, spends his days fixing copy machines and his nights playing lead singer in a cover band of his favorite metal group, Steel Dragon. He’s got a bad case of lead-singer syndrome and nags his other group members with commands such as, “You’re not nailing that squeal!” and, “No, raunchier.”
Coincidentally, the lead singer of the real Steel Dragon suddenly needs to be replaced, and guess who steps in. Chris becomes the lead singer of his favorite band, and all of his dreams come true.
But Rock Star is not as much fabricated fairytale as it seems. The story is based on the life of Tim Owens, who took the place of Rob Halford in Judas Priest.
Anyone who has ever seen a movie about the small-town boy making it big knows that there’s always a down side. Waiting for the sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll to break Chris down is almost like watching waiting for the ship to sink in Titanic.
A predictable plot gives some comic relief as Chris and his fellow members of Steel Dragon trash hotel rooms. All the debauchery that comes from the overindulgent ’80s setting makes the movie bearable. Jason Flemyng does a great job as the band’s original lead singer, and Dominic West is funny as Steel Dragon’s guitarist.
Aniston has several good one-liners as she tries to stave off the hordes of groupies after her boyfriend. The ’80s manage to be funny enough that the jokes come easy, and Rock Star takes advantage of that with good gags.
The chemistry between Wahlberg and Aniston steals the show, but the movie makes the mistake of leaving it on the sidelines. Rock Star falls somewhere on the movie continuum between This is Spinal Tap, which was evident in all its self-deprecating humor, and a more dramatic musical movie about the ’80s such as Fame. Rock Star also bears resemblance to every episode of VH1’s “Behind the Music.”
There is a lot more to the ’80s than just bad fashion and big hair, such as less funny things like the Iran-Contra scandal and Reaganomics. But you are more likely to find someone that knows all the words to Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer” than someone who can explain who Oliver North is.
Perhaps Rock Star is a good reflection of the ’80s after all: big on glitz and lacking in substance.
Rock Star is in theaters Friday