Fox // 2008 // 102 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Roy Hrab (Retired) // January 27th, 2009
"A lot of elevators play Celine Dion; that doesn't make it right."
Are you ready to rock? I hope you are! Because today I'm reviewing The Rocker: "Born To Rock" Edition!
A washed-up drummer from a 1980s hair band gets a shot at redemption. Such is the premise of this Will Ferrell vehicle. What? Not Ferrell? Sorry, I meant Jack Black. Pardon? Not him either? Ummmm...let me check my notes again...I think I left them in my car. Just give me a minute to retrieve them...
In 1986, Robert "Fish" Fishman (Rainn Wilson, The Office) is the drummer for the up-and-coming heavy metal band called Vesuvius. After a gig, the band is offered their dream: a record deal. However, the president of the label wants his nephew to be the drummer. The band agrees to dump Fish and goes on to superstardom. Meanwhile, Fish passes the next twenty years fuming over what might have been. His bitterness gets him fired from his job and dumped by his girlfriend. In an attempt to start anew, he moves in with his sister (Jane Lynch, Best In Show) and family. It just happens that her teenage son Matt (Josh Gad, 21) is looking for a replacement drummer for his band that's scheduled to play the senior prom. Is this Fish's shot at comeback?
Will Ferrell has pretty much monopolized the fallen hero that gets a chance at redemption comedy through films such as Anchorman, Blades of Glory, and Talladega Nights. And Ferrell probably would have done a rock and roll themed film if Jack Black's School Of Rock had failed. However, Black succeeded, Ferrell didn't have to make such a film.
But if Ferrell did make a rock and roll film, The Rocker might have been a potential vehicle for him, although, had he been attached to the project, the script would have gotten a top-notch script doctor for some heavy burnishing, the budget would have been substantially larger, and the film directed by Adam McKay (Step Brothers). Alas, The Rocker was made without any of these trappings. The resulting film is not a disaster, but it isn't very good either. It is a plodding, predictable, unmemorable comedy.
There's not much to it. The story is by the numbers. An immature, sour, middle-aged man is plopped into a band of teenagers. Initially, there is tension between the young and old, but a grudging respect begins to form. Before long, the man starts to mature and in doing so is able to impart wisdom to the youth, allowing them to mature as well. Sure, there are conflicts along the way, but everything gets resolved for the most part. Career aspirations are fulfilled. Self-esteem is built. Romances are kindled. Frauds are exposed. Redemption is achieved.
And it's all uninspired and boring. Most of jokes, from the purely verbal to the physical to the gross and all the way to the requisite rock and roll shenanigans montage, are pedestrian. The funniest sequence occurs at the very beginning of the film when Fish is kicked out of Vesuvius and goes on a rampage against his former band mates.
The biggest tragedy (or travesty) of The Rocker is the sheer volume of talented comedians that are used to little or no effect. Wilson, excellent as Dwight Shrute in The Office, seems to being doing some kind of Will Ferrell/Jack Black hybrid performance, but only sporadically generates the required charisma and manic energy. To be fair, he isn't given much to work with. Gad and the other young actors, Emma Stone (Superbad) and Teddy Geiger, don't leave much of an impression. Lynch, who stole scenes in Role Models and The 40-Year-Old Virgin, is wasted completely. The rest of the talented supporting cast is also set adrift, especially Christina Applegate (The Sweetest Thing) and Jeff Garlin (Curb Your Enthusiasm).
As with several of their recent releases, Fox has provided us with a single-disc screener copy rather than final product. As such, I can only base my appraisal on what I see here. As far as the technical aspects go, nothing sounded or looked untoward. The video was clear and the colors sharp. Similarly, the 5.1 surround sound was clean and strong for both dialogue and music.
For extras, the screener copy featured two commentary tracks. The first track is by director Peter Cattaneo (The Full Monty) and Wilson. It is quite good and actually a lot more interesting than the film. Cattaneo provides a wealth of facts about the film, including the budget, the difficulty of shooting some scenes, the reasons why some scenes were cut, and character development. The second track features actors Gad, Geiger, Stone and Jason Sudeikis (Semi-Pro). The group mostly jokes around and doesn't offer anything particular insight into the film or the performances. It is not nearly as interesting as the first commentary.
In contrast to the barebones extras on the screener copy, the 2-disc Special Edition is loaded to the gills with deleted scenes, a gag reel, a digital copy of the movie, a handful of featurettes, an interview with Pete Best (the original drummer for the Beatles), a music video, some podcasts, and more. Are they any good? I have no idea.
Is the full slate of extras enough to redeem the film? Probably not, but who knows? Not me.
It's of little surprise that The Rocker bombed at the box office, grossing a sad $6.4 million. It's not neither original nor funny and the songs aren't that great either. If you're not already of fan of the film, this is a rental at best (and only because what you really wanted wasn't available).
Guilty of being a superfluous and squandering a lot of comedic talent.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (French)
Running Time: 102 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Deleted Scenes
* Gag Reel
* Music Video
* Digital Copy
* Official Site
* Cinema Verdict Review