When Tom Cruise
slid across the floor in his underwear, a generation slickly
came of age. But when that generation insists on still doing
it in 2008, it's a little sad. We need to grow up, put on
our pants and take a little responsibility. Every now and
then, though, that floor sure looks tempting.
At least, that's
one of the messages behind The Rocker. Though Rainn
Wilson's Robert "Fish" Fishman's had rock and roll dreams
snatched away by outside forces, it's clear that he hasn't
been able to move on, unable to hold down a job, a relationship
or an apartment.
earlier, Fish had been the drummer for Vesuvius, a Cleveland
band on the brink. The president of the record company,
however, had a nephew who wanted to be a drummer, so Fish
got kicked out before they could become world-famous. (Somewhere
in this movie, ex-Beatle Pete Best pops up, but I didn't
recognize him, thus proving the point, right?)
Now a bitter
Fish sleeps in his sister's attic, holding tightly to the
music - or at least, his interpretation of what the lifestyle
should have been. When his nephew's band A.D.D. loses their
drummer, it's time for Fish to step up and teach them how
There's an obvious
way this movie could have gone, and in places, the script
by Maya Forbes and Wallace Wodarsky does go there. But director
Peter Cattaneo made his bones on The Full Monty,
and The Rocker blends the sensibility of quirky small
comedy with the inevitable rise to fame arc.
Has rock and
roll changed so much? Though A.D.D. really does have a listenable
sound, driven by the dewy (and real singer) Teddy Geiger
as Curtis, it isn't until Fish's niece posts the band on
YouTube that they get the attention of a record company.
First it's a novelty as Fish becomes "The Naked Drummer"
(it makes sense in context) but as company weasel David
Marshall (Jason Sudeikis) points out, the songs get stuck
in your head.
understand any of that. A tour should be full of trashing
hotel rooms, getting arrested and scoring with the babes.
Of course, he's too old for them, he's too tired to do much
trashing and though his heart and soul are rock and roll,
his body just keeps making cracking noises in the strangest
Rocker offers too naļve a view of high school kids today
- and they do seem ridiculously chaste and sweet - but it's
also believable that Curtis, nephew Matt (Josh Gadman) and
would-be punk Amelia (Emma Stone from Superbad) would
rather play Xbox to unwind in their hotel room than get
It's a lot like
School of Rock, though not quite as loopy. Despite
much of its traditional message, The Rocker doesn't
wrap things up too neatly, either, which works in its favor.
Fish has a flirtation that grows with Curtis' mom, played
by Christina Applegate, and the awkwardness of it feels
real without it ever becoming too defined.
difference -- School of Rock celebrated Jack Black's
oddity, while The Rocker acknowledges that Fish (and
life) sometimes stands out painfully. Yet the movie really
does have a tender, not gooey, heart that keeps us smiling.
beyond Wilson, who throws himself into his comedy full gusto
but still has that vaguely unsettling quality of Dwight
Schrute. His (mostly) teen co-stars all underplay and have
great timing. Geiger, in particular, needs to break out
of essentially playing variations on himself, but he's good
at it. However, it's the corners of this film that really
keep this thing strong.
attention to the edges of his story and brings out interesting
performances. As Fish's sister, Jane Lynch gets the rare
chance to play normal, and if she's a little strident, the
situation calls for it. She's also married to scene-stealer
Jeff Garlin, who lives vicariously through his brother-in-law.
Big jolts of
energy come from the walking id of Sudeikis' manager. As
for Vesuvius, they're some of our best comic actors working
today, and while it's tempting to think it's a waste to
reduce the likes of Will Arnett and Fred Armisen to little
more than cameos, any more would have unbalanced the movie
and undercut its themes.
entertains from start to finish without a lot of noise.
It's not a huge movie, but it's one that works. Every now
and then, it's okay for a feel good movie to sneak in and
help us remember to bang our head. Live the dream, gang,
but remember to keep the Ben-Gay on hand.