MOVIE REVIEW- Rock on: For folks who believe in second chances
Like The Full Monty, director Peter Cattaneo's only other film you're likely to know, The Rocker is a sentimental, hard-to-hate feelgood movie that gives itself a little bit of an edge with non-prurient male nudity. This one's almost required viewing for anyone who was in a garage band in the ‘80s and has since become a boring, responsible adult, at least on the outside.
Twenty years later, Fish is in an office job he hates (as if Wilson could ever hate The Office), but two things haven't changed: he hasn't grown up and he hates his former band with a passion. They're still popular and have a new album out, so "the universe keeps shoving Vesuvius back in my face," he grumbles. To make things worse, he lives in Cleveland and always has to pass by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which has passed him by as well.
When he loses his job and his girlfriend in rapid succession, Fish moves in with his sister (Jane Lynch), her husband (Jeff Garlin), and their teenage son, Matt (Josh Gad), who– wouldn't you know– plays in a band, A.D.D. When their drummer drops out at the last minute, Uncle Robert fills in for their gig at the prom.
His compulsory– or is it compulsive?– drum solo spoils the show, but he gets hooked on performing again and promises to find them a gig if they'll let him stay in the band. He has a tender scene– perhaps the first to show where the film's really headed– of bonding with Curtis (Teddy Geiger), the band's brooding singer-songwriter-leader.
Curtis writes about his abandonment issues from his father leaving when he was a child, but hey, that means he has a single mom (Christina Applegate), whose initial reaction to Fish is snide enough to form the basis for a movie romance.
A.D.D.'s fourth member is Amelia (Emma Stone), whose stern countenance ("Smiling is for the weak," she says) is a challenge for Fish.
They have ups and downs, but really start going up when a video of Fish practicing in the nude becomes a YouTube sensation as "The Naked Drummer." Despite this notoriety, he keeps his clothes on when they start recording and touring, experiencing many firsts, including trashing their first hotel room. Well, Fish does that. He's "makin' up for lost time."
Of course it comes down to A.D.D. having to open for Vesuvius, by which point it's not enough for A.D.D. to succeed– Vesuvius has to fail too.
There's a lot of slapstick humor, mostly occasioned by Fish being accident-prone, to dilute the mush. The combination of head-bumping and head-banging should get most hardcore metalheads, especially aging ones, past the soft core of the plot.
Wilson handles the lead role capably, without calling anyone "Homeskillet" or "Fertile Myrtle." He's the latest in the Judd Apatow-spawned wave of schlubby heroes, while Gad could play Jonah Hill's younger brother.
The Rocker should appeal to anyone who believes in second chances. It shows that dreams never die; they just go to sleep for 20 years.
Hey, I'll bet A.D.D. could write a song around those lyrics!