Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Back with the band

Middle-age revenge comedy gets laughs, even if the music comes off too slick

Posted By on Wed, Aug 20, 2008 at 12:00 AM

This is a movie for every cubicle drone who's ever turned two pencils into drumsticks and made like Keith Moon between coffee breaks. Rainn Wilson, an icon to industrial-park wage slaves everywhere for his work as nerd Dwight Schrute on The Office, gets to trade in his clip-on tie for a pair of skin-tight leather trousers in this enjoyably lightweight but silly exercise in middle-age wish fulfillment.

Wilson gets his first shot at leading-man status, starring as Robert "Fish" Fishman, as a drab, fortyish tech worker who, 18 years ago, was unjustly ousted, Pete Best-style, from a band on the edge of stardom. The band in question, "Vesuvius," went on to become Metallica-sized arena rock icons, leaving a wound that just won't heal, as when one of Fish's co-workers jams out to their new album at the next cubicle. He's got another reason to sulk when his long-suffering girlfriend boots him, and he takes refuge in the attic of his sister (the reliable Jane Lynch). Redemption comes in the form of Fish's portly dweeb nephew, a guy who doesn't care how pathetic and weird his uncle is — he just needs a drummer for his band's upcoming, all-important high school dance gig. Given a foot in the show-biz door, Fish proceeds to kick the door down by molding his reluctant teen prodigies into a tight pop combo, and capitalizing on the popularity of an unbelievably awkward YouTube video. Complications come right from the fake-band sitcom playbook, like the reluctant romance between Fish and his bandmate's comely mom, played with chipper, Donna Reed-like moxie by Christina Applegate.

The one big bummer that keeps The Rocker from, um, really "rawking" is the unbelievably lame music, which sounds as if it was extruded from a teeny-bop production line.

The band itself (called ADD) is just OK, and pretty young Emma Stone (Superbad) is amusing as a sort of wisecracking 21st century Susan Dey. Of course the real turd is the guitar player, played by the supremely annoying, poor man's Jonas Brother Teddy Geiger, a purveyor of some of the wussiest wuss-rock imaginable. His big power ballad is so cloying and bland it lifts Kip Winger to Slayer status. There's just no way a kit-basher like Fish would ever play a tune this limp, but this movie isn't even remotely interested in reality, just living some rock 'n' roll dream. Or at least the scrubbed, polished, sissyfied and dumbed-down corporate equivalent.

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