Rocker, The (UK - DVD R2)
Marcus takes a look at the latest ageing rocker teaches kids how to rock movie...
Robert Fishman or ‘The Fish’ (Rainn Wilson) is, or indeed was, the drummer for Vesuvius, an 80s metal band who got signed to the big time on the understanding they lose their drummer. Since then, Fish has lived the normal life, the boring life, and given up playing the drums. That is until his nephew Matt’s (Josh Gad) band, A.D.D., with Amelia (Emma Stone) on Bass and Curtis (Teddy Geiger) on vocals, need a drummer for their prom gig and convince Fish to pick up the sticks and join them. Once again for Fish, it’s time to \m/ ROCK \m/ and with his help, this misfit band of school kids could go all the way.
From the outset, I was grinning. This wasn’t due to the writing or any particular gag but because Will Arnett was obviously loving the fact he’s playing an 80s rock singer. With his 80s metal hair and 80s metal swagger, and his dubbed 80s metal vocals, it was just brilliant. In fact the entire Vesuvius band didn’t seem to be playing it for laughs as much as they were living out a fantasy. What followed this however sort of killed my buzz. A really weird, over the top almost spoof like approach to Fish being booted out of the band, with him chasing down the rest of the bands van like a T-1000. It was kooky to say the least.
The main plot of the movie, revolving around Fish joining A.D.D., gives mixed results. There are some good lines dotted about the place and a few laughs, but all in all this seems a little weak. For a start, I didn’t believe the band for one second. Their mix of teeny bopper good looks, forty-plus drummer and music that could only draw in the Jonas Brothers crowd was just too thin. The pace that the band gets signed (by a super clichéd studio suit), go on tour, put their album out and become stars just isn’t laid out well enough. This element is really what makes this feel like a Disney Channel affair, sweeping through on the overdone steps that many a movie with the same themes has played with in exactly the same way. The obviously going to happen moment when Fish comes to face to face with his ex-Vesuvius band mates is also a weak and frankly weird.
Despite finding the movie a little lukewarm on the humour, there were some elements I liked. Emma Stone gives us yet another enjoyable performance that she seems to be able to deliver with ease now (bring on a lead role I say). Christina Applegate, though underused, is always a joy to watch (though her playing a mum to a sixteen year old, makes me feel old) and despite the OTT nature of Raine Wilson’s performance, there’s no denying he’s a genuine comic talent. Oh, and any gag involving someone sleeping with their eyes open always seems to tickle me.
The Rocker is nothing new. If fact, it's essentially School of Rock with a bigger dose of Disney Channel storytelling sensibilities all wrapped up in a 'what did you’d expect from this sort of thing' ribbon. The only thing it’s missing is the actor that should have been in the lead role. Jack Black. The Rocker immediately feels like a movie written in the hope that Jack Black would say yes to it. This is his gig. Wannabe rock star, obsessed with the rock to the point of delusion, and over the course of the movie learning that he might need to grow up a little bit. Fish even has the same damn haircut. Raine Wilson just seems like too weak a replacement and unfortunately his character comes off as a poor man's Jack Black, and I just couldn’t shake that from the back of my mind. It made the whole thing feel a bit flat knowing that Jack Black could have made this so much more, he lives and breathes this sort of role and Wilson just feels like he’s performing it.
This was an okay transfer for a simple comedy. Colours are strong and generally the image is good. It never does much in the way to impress beyond that but it’s not exactly a movie aimed at blowing the doors off of video presentations.
Once again The Rocker does just enough to get by. The audio is solid but far from astonishing. Every scene feels the same with very little in the way of atmosphere or size, whether it be a prom hall or an arena and with all of the songs pre-recorded and lip synched there’s no real sense of reality to be had anyway.
Now for what could probably have ended up as a bar bones release, The Rocker ends up coming with quite a bit of the good stuff in the features departments.
For starters there are two commentaries—one with Raine Wilson and the director Peter Cattaneo, which follows the pattern of Cattaneo pointing out facts in the scenes while Wilson cracks a funny, and the second is with the Josh Gadd, Teddy Geiger, Ema Stone and Jason Sudeikis, which is up-beat throughout and quite fun to listen to in places.
There are a good amount of deleted scenes (16:10), which seemed to have been cut for time rather than worth as there are a fair amount of laughs in the ten on offer.
‘Vesuvius Gags’ (04:08) is an alternative line reel of the opening van chase scene. While the ‘Pete Best Interview' (06:44) has the ex-drummer of the Beatles talking about his cameo in the movie and how he inspired the story (though all his dialogue in the scene got cut—ouch).
‘Vesuvius PSA’s’ (01:07) is the funniest of the features, with a bunch of spoof public service announcements from Will Arnett and Co. and there’s a music video for ‘I’m Not Bitter’ (02:48), which isn’t a music video but a series of clips with the music faintly in the background.
As for the featurettes section, we begin with ‘Raine Wilson: Office Rocker’ (03:31), which is essentially goofing about on set and quick comments of why the rest of the cast and crew love Raine in The Office.
‘Behind the Band: Vesuvius’ (02:41) is a spoof TV channel style documentary (a two minute one), complete with spoof interviews and ‘Rockbeat with Fish Fishman’ (02:39) is much the same.
Lastly there’s ‘Rock Tales’ (06:22), which is cast stories about their rock star dreams, ‘Fix Movie Channel Presents... In Character with The Rocker’ (02:16), which is a fluffy EPK and trailers for Max Payne, What Just Happened? and the Marley and Me teaser trailer.
Raine Wilson seems like a genuine talent and he’s not unfunny here, but this doesn’t feel like the breakout showcase movie he may have wanted. Unfortunately when compared to the Tenacious D member that this movie wants in its lead role, there’s just no comparing the laughs and indeed heart that the far superior School of Rock had over this blatant wannabe, and sadly I couldn’t help but be a little bored by The Rocker’s lack of originality despite giggling at a few of its gags along the way.
Review by Marcus Doidge
Suitable only for persons of 12 years and over
Release Date: 9th March 2009
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English. English Descriptive
Subtitles: English, English for Hearing Impaired
Extras: Commentaries, Featurettes, Deleted Scenes.
Easter Egg: No
Director: Peter Cattaneo
Cast: Rainn Wilson, Christina Applegate, Emma Stone, Will Arnett
Length: 98 minutes
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