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Review: The Rocker

Rocker is merely a passable goof-off, and one less challenging or fun than a night spent playing Rock Band.

The Rocker
Photo: 20th Century Fox

Rainn Wilson helps a trio of high schoolers achieve their guitar-hero dreams in The Rocker, the story of a washed-up fortysomething who nabs a second shot at rock glory by collaborating with some wannabe emo stars. If that sounds familiar, it’s because the setup is on loan from School of Rock, a far superior fantasy about a spastic man-child driven, against all odds and common sense, to live the Axl Rose experience. In this case, the buffoon in question is drummer Robert “Fish” Fishman (Wilson), who was thrown out of ‘80s glam metal outfit Vesuvius right before they became legends and, 20 years later, resumes banging a gong and getting it on courtesy of A.D.D., his dorky keyboardist nephew Matt’s (Josh Gad) group, also composed of stern bassist Amelia (Emma Stone) and brooding frontman Curtis (Teddy Geiger). A.D.D.’s ascension from prom band to MTV staple is a path paved with semi-amusing escapades (most involving Fish going drunk-wild) and meager dramatic subplots concerning the foursome’s various familial, romantic and/or self-esteem hang-ups. Fish gives Emma and Matt pep talks, helps Curtis overcome his daddy-abandonment issues by being a surrogate father (which also consists of smooching the kid’s hot mom, played by Christina Applegate), and in the process proves that growing up is way lamer than blowing the minds of 20,000 adoring fans while getting revenge against former, traitorous comrades. Wilson’s out-of-control shtick, including pratfalls off the stage and prancing about in tighty whities, is from the Jack Black institute of comedy, though his archaic interest in hair metal would be a sharper example of stunted maturity if Peter Cattaneo’s film didn’t posit the ‘80s-ish Vesuvius as relevant and popular. Despite his performance’s (and the story’s) derivativeness, Wilson’s idiot enthusiasm is so aggressive that it eventually wears down one’s defenses, and a host of NBC (and, specifically, 30 Rock) comedians sturdily contribute to the shenanigans, none more amusingly than Jason Sudeikis as a one-liner-spouting record label stooge. A wealth of creative talent, though, can’t alter the fact that Rocker is merely a passable goof-off, and one less challenging or fun than a night spent playing Rock Band.

Cast: Rainn Wilson, Christina Applegate, Josh God, Teddy Geiger, Emma Stone, Jeff Garlin, Jason Sudeikis, Jane Lynch, Jane Krakowski, Will Arnett, Bradley Cooper, Fred Armisen Director: Peter Cattaneo Screenwriter: Maya Forbes, Wally Wolodarsky Distributor: 20th Century Fox Running Time: 102 min Rating: PG-13 Year: 2008 Buy: Video, Soundtrack

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