Don't make Judge Dave Ryan angry. You wouldn't like him when he's angry.
It made me mad. It made me mean mad.
I've been known to have had quite a wide range of reactions to motion pictures in my life. Most of the time, I'm minimally entertained. The film is sort of just "there"—I watched it, and my life goes on forthwith. Sometimes I'm moderately entertained, or possibly even very entertained. Often I'm just plain bored. Rarely, I'm repulsed, shocked, and begin to fear for humanity. (Usually this response requires the participation of Joe Eszterhas in some fashion.) But I've never been outright angered by a film. It just…doesn't happen.
Then I watched Rock My World.
Rock My World—originally titled Global Heresy before it was dumped onto the video market without so much as a limited theatrical release—infuriates me. I'm not kidding here—I'm actually angry at this film, and the people who made it (especially the writer). Why? Because there was so much potential in this film—all of which is utterly wasted—that watching it is akin to watching a large diarrheal cow poop all over Botticelli's Madonna of the Pomegranate. Pardon the imagery, but I just can't think of any other way to describe it.
Facts of the Case
Rock My World is the story of a band—called, as you may be able to deduce, Global Heresy (Keram Malicki-Sanchez. Skin Deep; Lochlyn Munro, White Chicks; Jaimz Woolvett, Unforgiven; and Christopher Bolton)—that travels to an English country estate for a couple of weeks of R&R and to work on some new songs. Lord and Lady Foxley (Peter O'Toole and Joan Plowright—trust me, they've done some good films), the owners of the estate, are more than happy to rent the place out, since they desperately need the cash. (Or so I think. The film spends only about 25 seconds setting up the "why" of "why did they rent the house"—but as it turns out, the film doesn't spend more than about 25 seconds setting up anything. But more on that later…Patience…patience…) A monkey wrench (or, more appropriate to the setting, a spanner) is thrown into the works when the butler and cook hired to cater to the band in the absence of the Foxleys and their servants (who were sent away, presumably to spare them from seeing their masters' estate in the hands of others—or so I think) cancel at the last minute. Desperate for the cash, the Foxleys are forced to assume the roles of butler/cook and cater to the band themselves. Wacky hijinks ensue.
That stuff above is movie #1. But wait—there's more.
Movie #2 is the story of a band—again, Global Heresy—whose bassist/founder/primary songwriter has suddenly and unexpectedly disappeared. Can this red-hot band survive the trauma of losing a key member? What's the deal with Natalie, the quiet former session bassist (Alicia Silverstone, Clueless) hired to fill in? Will she mesh with the band, or will they resent her presence? Tense, emotional hijinks ensue.
But wait—there's more. Movie #3 is the story of a band that takes a lot of drugs and does stuff, and occasionally sees Lord Foxley acting sort of…well, gay. Wacky drug-fueled hijinks ensue.
BUT WAIT!!!!!!! THERE'S EVEN MORE!!!!!!!!! Movie #4 is the story of an elderly couple who are rich in possessions, but who were unable to have children. The husband has become distant in his disappointment, taking his anger out on his wife and his sister's illegitimate daughter (Amy Phillips) at various times. The wife has been blaming herself for her failings for years, and believes her life to be incomplete and ultimately unfulfilled. The arrival of a group of lively young people—again, the band Global Heresy—awakens old yearnings in both, and forces them to confront the pain they've lived with for years. Dramatic, sensitive hijinks ensue.
Now how much would you pay? Oh no you don't—BECAUSE THERE'S EVEN MORE!!!!!!!! Movie #5 is the story of a band on the rise wanting to take control of their own destiny. But controlling their own destiny doesn't mesh with their record company's plans for them. Hence, the Evil Record Company dispatches one of its minions, a Tony-Hendra-in-Spinal Tap-like chap named Jim Chancellor (Martin Clunes, Shakespeare in Love), to get the band to sign a new management contract that will secretly (in the fine print) turn creative control over to the record company. Will the Evil Record Company screw the band over? Will anyone fight for the band? Scheming hijinks of intrigue ensue.
But wait—there's even more. However, I'm not going to go into it. I think you get the point.
Now, every single one of these movies would have been a worthwhile story. Stuff we've seen before? Sure. But interesting concepts that, in the right hands, could be turned into terrific motion pictures. Rock My World attempts to make all of these films simultaneously—and, in doing so, fails catastrophically.
I have so many questions for this film. So many, many, many questions. Why was this cast wasted? Peter O'Toole! Joan Plowright! These are giants of English theater! Peter O'Toole is a legend! A legend! Joan Plowright is the widow of Sir Laurence Olivier! She's a baroness, for pete's sake! How can you waste these two—who are absolutely wonderful together, by the way—on such a disorganized mess of a script? Why was the main character in this band cast with a fey-looking pseudo-hobbit of an actor (Malicki-Sanchez)? Why do you bring Alicia Silverstone—a bright, beautiful, and talented young actress—into your film, and literally make her nothing but eye candy? Her character is completely undeveloped! (And, sadly, she doesn't do all that much with the little she's given by the script. But she's young; hopefully she'll learn.)
Why does the film spend no more than 30 seconds on anything? There was a neat little moment where the hobbit and Alicia are starting to bond (finally), by quizzing each other on the real names of various rock stars. There's a little moment when Alicia…err, Natalie lets the rock chick façade drop for just a second, and the hobbit gives her a look—and the $&^%*% film cuts away! Oops, the 30 seconds are up! The next time we see the two together, Alicia's jumping him. WHAT THE &^$*? Did you people have a bus to catch or something?
Why is the band so unappealing? Why does the band vacillate between multiple unrelated styles of music? I heard everything from Gin Blossoms to Jane's Addiction in there. Why the klutzy and unfunny "gay" stuff? (And how can any of you look at yourselves in the mirror after making Peter O'Toole—Peter O'Toole!—submit to the klutzy and unfunny "gay" stuff?)
Why are so many potential plot threads dropped immediately after being introduced? There's a little scene with Alicia and O'Toole where Lord Foxley is quite impressed by young Natalie's knowledge of plants. Later, we see him studying up on what plants he actually has in his garden—an issue that he didn't previously have to consider, not being the gardener—presumably in order to "impress" her back. It's cute, and it had potential. But guess what? The two never interact again in the entire film. Never once. Never. Grrrrr…
And Alicia—why this? You've made precisely five films between Excess Baggage in 1997 and today (August, 2004). Why was this one of them? Did you lose a poker bet? Why aren't you "America's Sweetheart Who Isn't Drew Barrymore?" I honestly expected you to be filling all the smart/cute/young roles formerly filled by Meg Ryan by now. Oh sure, I know you did the stage thing for a while—but what gives? Did people hate you that much after Batman and Robin? Are you secretly a member of the Communist Party or al Qaeda or something? Why don't I have a shelf chock full of Alicia Silverstone hit movies in my DVD collection? Why this film? Alicia, please—I see a world where the Jessica Simpsons of the world are dominating headlines and magazines, yet you—in my estimation, more beautiful, more talented, and clearly more intelligent—barely show up anywhere, and I just can't understand. Fire your agent, date Jack Nicholson, go on a 30-day coke binge, make a porno tape with Rick Soloman—I don't care. Just get back into the spotlight and start making real movies again. Please.
There are no extras on the disc, either. None. No trailer, no subtitles, no alternate audio tracks, no Easter eggs, nothing. I'm not sure whether that's really a bad thing, though.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Normally, I'd just say "to hell with it; it's a complete piece of crap, go watch something else." But that's the problem. It's not a complete piece of crap—and it's almost (but not quite) worth watching. All of the credit for this has to go to O'Toole and Plowright. Their characters aren't any better developed than the rest of the cast—but these are experienced professionals, and they manage to wring every bit of interest and emotion out of their characters. It's easy for a great actor to shine in a great film—but truly great actors shine in bad films as well. These are two truly great actors. (In fact, O'Toole and Michael Caine are probably the greatest actors ever in the field of "giving interesting performances in the midst of crap.") Alicia is seriously yummy—I really think that this is the best she's ever looked on screen (not counting the 2003 Emmy Awards). The band is (as I said above) not particularly appealing, but they're mostly believable. The music is wildly inconsistent in genre, but not bad.
As far as technical details…well, there's nothing wrong with the picture or sound quality; both are serviceably decent. There's a more than a little grain in the picture—reflecting the apparently poor film stock the picture used—but you can still see what's going on at all times. That's sort of a good thing, I guess. From a certain perspective.
I can't honestly recommend Rock My World to anyone, even to connoisseurs of bad films like myself, unless you've already accidentally paid for it and you've really got nothing better to do. It just made me so mad—because the raw materials of a classic are definitely here. They just weren't crafted properly.
And yet I'm attracted to it like gawkers are attracted to a car wreck. Probably because I want to take matters into my own hands and rewrite the dang thing, which I will gladly do if someone out there can guarantee me Peter O'Toole, Joan Plowright, and Alicia Silverstone for the remake. I know—I just know—that I, or really anyone with any sense of storytelling and cinema, could wring a great film out of this fiasco. It's all there, but it's inchoate. I can see it, I can feel it, and I can even smell it.
At one point in the movie, a Global Heresy member says, "What are we, Eddie and the Cruisers"? No, you're not. Eddie and the Cruisers stuck to one theme, told one story, and was better for it. I wish you had been Eddie and the Cruisers.
O'Toole and Plowright are free to go, with the court's pity and empathy. Silverstone and the rest of the cast will be placed on Double-Secret Probation, with the caveat that if they ever think of doing another film as poorly crafted as this, they'll all be doing hard time. Hard time, got it? Now get lost, kids. Except for the hobbit; he goes back to Peter Jackson. The director (Sidney Furie, who crafted such gems as Superman IV and Iron Eagle IV) gets 40-to-life with eligibility for parole.
The writer, Mark Mills? The chair.
You heard me.
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