Call me old-fashioned, but when a film is labelled a comedy, I expect it to be funny. And I’m not talking about laugh-a-minute, side-splitting humour- although that’s always a plus- but a couple of good, memorable comedy sequences that stick with you, however fleetingly. Such scenes are sorely missed in ‘The Rocker’, the latest film from Peter Cattaneo, the director behind ‘The Full Monty’ and not much else.
The plot follows a drummer, Robert “Fish” Fishman (Rainn Wilson) who was kicked out of his band, Vesuvius, while they were on the verge of making it big twenty years ago. He gets a second chance when his nephew’s band, full of high-school misfits, are left in the lurch by their drummer and need Fish to play at their first gig, the high school prom. They eventually get signed to a record label and go on a tour of the Midwest, and while Fish, adamant that he will not pass up the opportunity, heartily embraces the rockstar lifestyle. Meanwhile, his bandmates are all underage and must be chaperoned by Christina Applegate as the lead singer’s mother. Sparks fly, allegedly.
It is hard to watch ‘The Rocker’ and not have a distinct feeling of having seen it all before. Employing successful themes found in both ‘School of Rock’ and ‘Almost Famous’, it lacks the musicality of both these films, and struggles to find it’s niche within the genre.
The music that is played is catchy if not a little mainstream, but it is hard to believe that a drummer who previously played with the biggest metal band of the time, would find himself playing in a band reminiscent of McFly.
It’s not all bad. The band’s rise to fame as a Youtube sensation is quite a clever concept. I suspect almost anyone could become famous on the back of Youtube exposure, including a teenage band with an unkempt, middle-aged drummer. However, one feels that the plot leaves a lot of loose ends, which have pointlessly little impact on the story as a whole, untied.
Applegate’s character is underused, (it’s a strange feeling to long for more of Christina Applegate’s acting) and the relationship between her and Fish is underdeveloped. It’s almost as though the scriptwriters realised how ridiculous it was half way through and abandoned it.
There are some touching scenes between Fish and Curtis (Teddy Geiger), the lead singer who was abandoned by his Dad and is craving a father figure, but again this is left unfinished, and feels as though it’s been thrown in for good measure.
It appears that the movie is intended to serve as an acting springboard for Geiger, but his performance doesn’t quite capture the supposed abandonment-fuelled angst his character draws on for his songwriting throughout the film. However, on the whole, the supporting cast are competent, and provide a little light relief from Wilson’s overdone ‘irresponsible rocker’ act.
Wilson is probably best known for his role in the US incarnation of ‘The Office’ and this was a perfect opportunity for him to prove his credentials as a lead actor. Unfortunately, his lacklustre performance in The Rocker is merely of the calibre of a supporting role.