When Rock of Ages first begins - on a bus taking Julianne Hough to the promised land of the Sunset Strip - you might think, "Wow, whoever wrote this is huffing Aqua Net in their garage." (The entire bus bursts into the Night Ranger song "Sister Christian" about five minutes into the scene.)
It's absurd watching '80s archetypes like a hair metal monster and a retired Harley's Angel bursting into '80s rock anthems with the earnest grins of the Sound of Music kids. (Doubly so when it's Russell Brand and Alec Baldwin doing the singing.) It's distracting to look at Hough and her foil, Malin Ackermann, and wonder, "Wait, could I pull off that acid-wash miniskirt with cowboy boots, too?" And as for Tom Cruise lying unconscious in a pile of women, covered only by a bedazzled jockstrap- I mean, conclude what you will.
But much like the Broadway show it's based on, the Rock of Ages movie is improbably, undeniably awesome. Half the time, the movie is really funny (partly from being ridiculous, and partly because there are some very sharp, appropriately self-conscious one-liners). The other half of the time, the music is fantastic - as it should be, considering the movie's songs come from '80s titans like Journey, Twisted Sister, and Pat Benetar.
As for the cast, it's excellent, with Ms. Hough proving she's the kind of Hollywood triple threat who can sing, dance, and wear blue eyeshadow. Her onscreen love, Diego Boneta, is both adorable and gorgeous, and needs to move into our office immediately. Ms. Ackerman manages to sing well, and appear credibly geeky in her underwear (an especially hard task for a former supermodel). And Tom Cruise is weirdly perfect as the Lama-like rock god Stacee Jaxx, whose best friend is a monkey named Hey Man and whose dialogue swings between profound truths and "WTF" riddles. He is also an excellent rock singer, to the point where we wondered why he's not in an actual band.
The end of Rock of Ages feels like the end of a sold-out concert, where your head thumps, your eyes glaze, and you wonder why you can't do it again every night of your life. This is kind of a silly movie. You must see it immediately.