Fool Of Rock

6 November 2008

Luckily for me, I left my expectations at home when I walked in for a viewing of The Rocker. For the brave who venture where only moderately-sized audiences have gone before this is a pre-requisite. Peter Cattaneo, who earlier delivered the sleeper hit and Oscar nominated “The Full Monty”, manages to churn out a spectacularly mediocre movie.

Rainn Wilson, as the titular rocker Robert “Fish” Fishman covers the territory from down and out drummer for a late eighties band called “Vesuvius” to an embittered office worker and back. Much to Fish’s chagrin, having been kicked out of the band they go on to peak as a music sensation – despite their permanent bad hair day.

Fish, meanwhile, is left to struggle with an eternal sense of what could have been. Dumped and then fired, always one step away from turning hysterical upon encountering the past, a second chance arrives in the form of playing for his nephew’s high school band “A.D.D” when they fall short of a drummer.

Wilson reinvents the meaning of over the top in a series of exaggerated histrionics (the usual range of skits; copious vomiting, nude drumming et al) in his role as the quintessential loser with a heart of gold. On the evidence of the performance his brief seems to have been to do anything loud, rude and crude.

But even the unbridled energy of Wilson (a study in contrast to his staid Office character) is unable to resurrect the essentially lifeless script (by the husband-wife team of Maya Forbes and Wallace Wolodarsky).

Character motivations are often seemingly random and the dénouement is suddenly upon us without any prior warning as to how we are brought there.

There are several rock and roll references and attempted satirical digs at the wantonness of the touring band lifestyle, but with prelapsarian teens thrown into the mix one really wonders what the target audience was.

The movie treads the usual ground including our favourite feel good themes: (1) why bad things happen to good people, (2) how #1 can be undone, (3) Don’t Give Up on Your Dream and (4) The Beginner’s Guide to Being Jack Black. But whilst The Rocker seems to want to be “School of Rock”, its rockumentary hangover prevents it from joyfully erupting with the zaniness that its premise gestured towards.

The teenagers are competent, and the soundtrack passes muster. The movie does have a few genuinely amusing moments and one-liners, and a reliable turn from Christina Applegate as the chaperoning parent on tour of the lead singer – but I still feel the loss of my £6.65.