Ah, it's the old showbiz story: A young, talented girl heads for Tinseltown in search of fame and riches only to be hit with the harsh realities of the big city.
You know the drill — she steps from the bus and within minutes her suitcase is stolen containing all of her worldly possessions, including her favorite rock albums. (The story is set in the '80s, so yes, albums). Next, with nowhere to turn, another aspiring star, Drew — played by Diego Boneta — takes pity on her plight and helps her get a job at the legendary rock venue, the Bourbon, where he, too, awaits his break-out opportunity. Of course, they fall in love. Well, that's the setup for "Rock of Ages."
Julianne Hough steps into the role of Sherrie Christian, who ends up waiting tables at the Bourbon just as rock legend Stacee Jaxx appears for his solo debut. Tom Cruise is simply amazing as he delivers a totally believable, strange amalgam of glam metal icons of the '80s. Jaxx arrives, ethereally weaving his way into the Bourbon, and he and the club's owner, Dennis — played wonderfully by Alec Baldwin — have a bizarre, brotherly exchange that sets up the Jaxx character beautifully. He's very strange, and when the shirtless Cruise, in leather and replete with tattoos, steps to the microphone, he rocks the house. I mean, he's incredible.
In attempting to get Jaxx on stage, Sherrie is spotted coming — all very innocently — from the star's dressing room, and Drew misreads the situation. Both overreact and Sherrie quits and ends up on the street. Unable to find work and desperate, she ends up working in a "gentlemen's club." Drew, meanwhile, falls into the clutches of Paul Giamatti, playing Jaxx's manager, who tries to mold him into a boy band star.
There are several great sub-plots running through "Rock of Ages." It seems Dennis, the club's owner and his partner, Lonny, have been smoldering for each other and the partnership … well, let's just say, expands. Baldwin and Russell Brand, who stars as Lonny, are terrific.
Then, there's Catherine Zeta-Jones, the mayor's wife. The question is, "Why is she so determined to shut down the Bourbon and clean up this part of Sunset Strip?" I leave the answer at the box office of your favorite theater.
Be aware that "Rock of Ages," while only carrying a PG-13 rating, delivers real sass and a lot of that sass is delivered by Julianne Hough.
I'm giving it 3½ stars.