Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The Rocker

There's absolutely nothing I can say that can save The Rocker. It's a spectacular bomb and in terms of 2,500+ theater wide releases had in fact the worst opening in motion picture history. Whether this had to do with Joe Blow not recognizing Rainn Wilson, mediocre reviews, or general August apathy I don't know, but it's a bit of a shame. The Rocker isn't a masterpiece but it's a good movie and I smiled and laughed through the majority of it.

There's not any "movie stars" present but the cast is a veritable who's-who of ambassadors from relatively classy TV comedies. Rainn Wilson from The Office of course plays the lead and brings a Dwight-esque goofiness to his failed wannabe-rock star, but there's also Will Arnett from Arrested Development, Jeff Garlin from Curb Your Enthusiasm, Jason Sudeikis and Fred Armisen from Saturday Night Live, Aziz Ansari from Human Giant, Jane Krakowski and Lonny Ross from 30 Rock, and Jane Lynch from small roles and cameos in fucking everything. They're all talented comedians and it's nice and comforting to see so many familiar faces in one spot.

Pretty much the only non-TV actors are the three kids playing Rainn Wilson's new high school bandmates. Teddy Geiger does just fine as the emo lead singer but I really liked the other two. I've never seen Josh Gad in a single other thing in my life but he has a hilarious Jonah Hill-esque, socially awkward vibe, and I've talked before about how I really like Emma Stone. I'd like to see both of them in more films.

It's probably more the actors holding together the amusing but relatively generic script than the other way around. It's all pretty inoffensive, serviceable, TV-friendly comedy. It's PG-13 so there's not really any gross-out stuff or sex jokes or profanity, but there's enough social awkwardness, pratfalls, general absurdity, and low-key satire of the music industry to keep one laughing and the movie is paced really well and doesn't drag for a second.

The general plot structure can be predicted fifteen minutes in and a lot of elements are dusty screenplay standbys that have been used a million times over - of course each of the three bandmates is going to have a personal crisis of some kind, of course Rainn Wilson, despite seeming sloppy and dumb, is going to help each one of them out of their funks, of course Rainn Wilson is going to mature and so on, of course the heroes succeed in the end, of course everyone has a romantic interest, and so on and so forth, all set to radio-friendly pop-punk music.

That probably doesn't read as a ringing endorsement, and I won't say that this is by any remote stretch some great comedy that will be remembered for years to come, but I also won't pretend I didn't have a good time, laugh plenty, and walk out of the theater smiling, if only because the cast is all really good. If you like Rainn Wilson in The Office then give it a look. It's movie snack food - mass-produced, no real nutritional value, and snobs might sneer at it, but hey - it's comforting and tasty, so who gives a shit?

2 Stars out of 5

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