The Rocker
dir Peter Cattaneo
scr Maya Forbes, Wally Wolodarsky
with Rainn Wilson, Christina Applegate, Teddy Geiger, Josh Gad, Emma Stone, Jane Lynch, Jeff Garlin, Jason Sudeikis, Will Arnett, Bradley Cooper, Howard Hesseman, Jane Krakowski
release US 20.Aug.08, UK 17.Oct.08
08/US Fox 1h42
The Rocker
The sky's the limit: Gad, Geiger, Stone and Wilson

applegate lynch sudeikis
edinburgh film fest
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
The Rocker Essentially a Will Ferrell Lite movie, this toothless comedy has a likeable central performance from Rainn Wilson and several hilariously spiky side characters. But it never quite hits its comical stride, paying off the gross-out set-up with warm-hearted cuteness.

Robert Fishman (Wilson) was the over-eager drummer for Cleveland spandex band Vesuvius, but was thrown out by his bandmates (Arnett and Cooper) on the eve of their big time breakthrough. Two decades later, Vesuvius is ready for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, while the still-bitter Fish is plodding through his tedious life. Then he finds out that his teen nephew Josh (Gadman) and his bandmates (heartthrobs Geiger and Stone) need a drummer for their prom gig. Fish is embarrassing, but still has the talent, plus ideas to help the band break out.

This opening act is assembled with gleeful skill, building the character connections cleverly through witty dialog and outrageous comedy of humiliation (See Wilson in his underpants! See him naked on YouTube!). Frankly there's no way the rest of the film could live up to this, and indeed, as the plot kicks into gear, with the young band going on the road and Fish heading for a showdown with Vesuvius, it gets contrived and predictable.

What makes it watchable is the skill of the cast and the astute old-young rockers theme. Fabulous scene-stealers abound, including Lunch and Garlin (as Fish's annoyed sister and overkeen brother-in-law), Applegate (as Geiger's mother and Fish's sparring partner), Hesseman (as the retro tour bus driver) and Spinal Tap wannabes Arnett and Cooper. Best of all is Sudeikis' turn as a record label exec whose smarm knows no bounds.

Meanwhile, Wilson plays Fish perhaps a little too much like Jack Black in School of Rock. This shtick runs dry about halfway through the film, but the supporting cast more than carry him to the end. For Fish, this is about the rocking lifestyle of sex, drugs and general mayhem. For the kids, it's all about the music, which actually isn't too bad. And for the parents, it's about keeping their kids safe, not letting them run wild with an ageing drummer. Good luck.

cert 12 themes, language, innuendo 30.Jun.08

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© 2008 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall