Mark Wahlberg looks yummy in tight leather pants and thats a good thing because theres not much else to recommend his latest flick, ROCK STAR. Its the standard tale of the dangers of getting what you wish for, of the hollowness of a life of too much sex, drugs, and rock and roll.
Fortunately, he spends a lot of time in those pants both before and after he hits the big time. The before is when hes a copy machine technician still living at home with mom and dad by day, and the lead singer in a cover band, excuse me, >tribute< band dedicated to the music and mythos of Steel Dragon. Theirs is not the only such band in town and one of the films few clever moments is when the look-alike members of two of these competing bands, who match right down to costumes and attitude, come to blows in the parking lot at a Steel Dragon concert. Theres volumes of social commentary there, best summed up by Chris cop brother, when he points out the salient fact that Chris isnt living his fantasy life, hes living someone elses. Hmmm. Fanatical fans of all stripes take note.
Still, our Chris is an earnest, wide-eyed innocent who loves his mom and his baby sister, so when life in the form of his ungrateful backup band deals him a bad blow, fate evens it out. He gets a phone call from Steel Dragon asking him to fly out to California to audition to replace the lead singer hes been imitating, er, tributing all these years. The next thing he knows, hes on the road living the dream.
From here on its all stock characters and stock situations. Jennifer Anniston is his tart-tongued, dewy-eyed girlfriend, Emily who, inevitably tires of life on the road, which leads to the equally inevitable scene where Chris must choose between decadence and dewy eyes. The band members, some played by actual rock stars such as Jason Bonham, are interchangeably not bright and promiscuous with wives and girlfriends that are stone-hearted, material girls. Even the road manager is a pale echo of Tony Hendras Ian Faith character in the uber-rockumentary, THIS IS SPINAL TAP, only instead of a cricket bat, hes got some sort of chemotherapy as his signature quirk. The low point may be when Chris, rechristened Izzy for that heavy metal edge, debuts with the band by tumbling down the stages staircase in a plot device that dates back to the silent cinema, where it was also thought of as hackneyed. Even the tight close up of a near nipple piercing seems a desperate attempt to do something interestingly edgy that will get people talking.
Darn. It worked.
As for dialogue, let me put it this way, instead of clever writing, we get the characters repeating the naughty diminuative of a kitten over and over and over and over. Now, the most interesting thing about ROCK STAR is that it is, apparently, based loosely on a true story. The band was Judas Priest and if only the people in charge had decided to tell THAT story, we might have had something.
Wahlberg, can, no doubt about it, wail like a metal head and his scenes in performance, when hes not being asked to do something silly, are pretty good. But theres no real drama here, because weve already had it drummed into our heads that Chris is a sweet guy and Emily is a sweet girl so you just know that nothing really bad can happen to them. So, when the cliché ending moseys along, where is the surprise? Where is the payoff? Where is the reason an audience shells out the double digit dollars for tickets and popcorn? Tight leather pants on a bodacious bottom is only worth so much on a big screen.