Judge David Johnson is a rock god. One of the smaller pagan ones from the Old Testament, but a god nonetheless!
Our review of The Rocker, published January 27th, 2009, is also available.
Rainn Wilson (The Office) stars in this sneeze-and-you-missed-its-theatrical-run rock comedy. Do yourself a favor and follow up now that it's available on Blu-ray; it's worth a look.
Facts of the Case
Wilson is Fish, the former drummer for a bodacious '80s hair metal band called Vesuvius. Unfortunately for him, the "former" tag was affixed just before the band went huge. Now while they're off making millions Fish is trapped in a series of dead-end jobs, having sworn off rock music forever. When his girlfriend kicks him out of her house, he's forced to move in with his sister and wouldn't you know it, her son is in a band and they're looking for a drummer!
Eventually, Fish decides to join up and faster than you can say "because the script says so," his new band, A.D.D., takes off, placing him on a collision course with his old band-mates and the looming specter of becoming a grown-up.
A quick survey of the aggregate film reviews reveals a movie that not many people cared for, nor saw. But The Rocker is an enjoyable comedy with some genuine emotionality and plenty of laughs. Not big laughs, though. But a whole bunch of smaller ones.
What appealed to me most about this movie was its heart. Besides the Vesuvius jackasses—led by Will Arnett—who are over-the-top ridiculous, everyone is likable. Actually, those Vesuvius guys are pretty likeable now that I think about it. Better, no one is obnoxious, though the opportunities were there. Fish's nephew Matt (Josh Gad) could have been the overwrought, Jonah Hill kind of fat guy, but Gad plays him as an awkward, socially inept keyboardist. Real-life musician Teddy Geiger as the band's depressed lead singer? All kinds of potential for being a d-bag, but the character is vulnerable and arguably the emotional fulcrum of the film. Even the droopy goth chick isn't a stick in the mud!
It's Wilson who walks the thinnest tightrope. Fish is a heavy partier with the emotional maturity of a 15-year-old, but I never once found him to be over-the-top annoying, which he could have easily been. He's a good guy—heck, a surrogate father even to one of the band members—and is sympathetic from the get-go. There's a smidgen of Dwight in Wilson's performance (I would absolutely expect Dwight to play the drums naked on Youtube), but Fish is essentially a fun-loving idiot who has real affection for his bandmates.
It's a great decision by the writers to go in this direction. There's some requisite formula of course (you have to have the Big Misunderstanding that leads to the Tragic Fallout, which will lead to the Glorious Reunion and finally the Triumphant Finale), but the fact that The Rocker was largely a feel-good, family-friendly comedy (Wilson's exposed backside and a few low-impact swear words are it for offensive material) that is actually funny and affecting is innovation enough.
Fox has delivered a great Blu-ray disc, too. The 1.85:1 high-def widescreen transfer is represents a noticeable upgrade in visual fidelity. The Rocker, simply put, looks fantastic. A relentlessly colorful movie—bordering on the flamboyant!—makes for a perfect exhibition of 1080p glory. The color work is incredibly vivid, buttressed by enhanced resolution; you will (unfortunately) be able to see the individual droplets of sweat on Rainn Wilson's posterior. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is an aural treat, blasting out the catchy soundtrack with clarity.
Onto the extras, which are bittersweet offerings. The sweet part: there are a lot of extras. The bitter? None are very substantial. Kicking things off are two entertaining commentary tracks, one with an over-exuberant Rainn Wilson and director Peter Cattaneo, the other with the actors Josh Gad, Teddy Geiger, Emma Stone and Jason Sudeikis. After that: an MTV panel featurette, a collection of internet podcasts, deleted scenes, including the excised ending that I'm glad they cut, a gag reel, a gallery of alternate lines (probably the funniest extra), some mediocre fake Vesuvius PSAs, an interview with Pete Best, a couple of manufactured featurettes on how all the cast wants Rainn Wilson to get them guest spots on The Office and a "behind the music" take on Vesuvius, interviews with the cast and crew about rock concert experiences and, lastly, a short segment on the film's soundtrack. Disc Two sports the digital copy.
I really enjoyed the movie and, if you're looking for a departure from the usual sex romp or dick joke comedy, I think you'll enjoy it too. A great Blu-ray accompanies.
Not guilty. Rock on.
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