A review of  Rock Star” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: ***

Rating: R for nudity, drug use, language

Run Time: 1 hour, 47 minutes

 

Is rock and roll king?  Does riding your dream to the top guarantee happiness?  Does Mark Wahlberg as an earnest 80s rocker qualify as a guilty pleasure?  In that order, yes, no, and yes.

Wahlberg is Chris Cole, frontman for the “tribute” garage band Blood Pollution, Pittsburgh circa 1985.  Tribute as in copy, which is what Blood Pollution is all about – replicating the music, costumes,  and every personal nuance of the heavy metal superstar band Steel Dragon and their lead singer Bobby Beers.  Copy machine repair man by day, heartfelt rocker by night, Chris has it all.  Supportive parents, a faithful longtime gal Emily (Jennifer Aniston), and the weighty stability of a very big dream. 

And dreams can come true, especially in the movies.  In the blink of an eye, Chris is booted from Blood Pollution for his unhealthy obsession with Steel Dragon. Seems the band would rather perform their “original” work than cover for another. Before he can lift the receiver to put out calls for a replacement band, the big boys themselves seek Chris out for an audition as lead singer to replace the ailing Beers.  Miraculously, Chris is hired as the frontman for Steel Dragon, rocketing off on a reckless trajectory of travel, wine, women and song.  The rise to the top is heady stuff, and Chris quickly learns how to bask in the glow of 80’s excess.  But what goes up must definitely come down.  As Emily wearies of life on the road, she and Chris come to an emotional crossroads.  Is the rocker life worth its personal toll?

Guilty pleasure, be thy name. The best you can do with a rise and fall tale is to turn it into a cheeseball of fun.  Loosely based on the life of Tim “Ripper” Owens, who replaced frontman Rob Halford of Judas Priest, this is a predictable but engaging romp through the planet of crotch-tight leather pants, big hair, and roadie bus orgies. Life on the road is an entertaining R-rated whirlwind of sex, drugs and oh-so-willing groupies.  The music smacks pleasurably of sweaty, anxious beer-soaked sojourns to SF’s Fillmore and the Oakland Coliseum. 

Wahlberg’s sincerity and megawatt smile, not to mention his persistent belief in himself and his dreams, translate into winning onscreen charm. Formerly of  Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch (that bastion of harmonic fame), not to mention those sexy, sculpted Calvin Klein underwear ads,  Wahlberg is familiar with the life and knows how to act the part.  His showmanship is spot on, as are the musical and dramatic stylings of drummer Jason Bonham of Led Zeppelin, Stephan Jenkins of Third Eye Blind, and Dokken bassist Jeff Pilson, among others.  Aniston grins her way through script and story indignities, content with the fact that she’s scored the first big film of the fall season.