Movie Review: Uneven ‘Rocker’ takes obnoxious, predictable turn
“The Rocker'' is a midlife-crisis fantasy. A guy who missed his big chance at fame and fortune is given a second chance at the brass ring 20 years later, and, against all odds, he succeeds.
Unfortunately, the movie is considerably less successful, despite its talented star, Rainn Wilson; the attractive young cast supporting him; its lively rock ’n’ roll soundtrack; and Peter Cattaneo, the director who gave us the hilarious “Full Monty.”
Written by Maya Forbes (“The Larry Sanders Show”) and Wallace Wolodarsky (“The Simpsons”), “The Rocker” should have been able to aim higher than grubby slapstick humor and a silly plot unworthy of The Three Stooges.
The big problem is the movie’s imbalance. On the one hand, we have what is supposed to be a raunchy comedy appealing to the 12- to 16-year-old crowd. On the other, we have what is supposed to be a heartwarming tale about a 40-year-old man finally coming of age as he pursues his dream.
Wilson, who’s made his mark on TV’s “The Office” playing a small-minded toady, certainly would have seemed the perfect choice to play this attenuated adolescent. Robert Fishman, aka Fish, is an annoying blowhard who, for two decades, has agonized over the loss he suffered when the rock band he was playing drums with fired him on the eve of their getting a recording contract.
Over the succeeding years, the band, Vesuvius, has known great fame and riches, all viewed by a bitter Fish from an office cubicle. But, as with most pop phenomena, they steadily have been losing luster with the public. Thus, they’re planning to stage a comeback. This latest blow is more than Fish can take. Thoroughly defeated, he retreats to the home of his sister and her family, which includes Matt, a young academic genius (Josh Gadd) whose avocation is his rock band, A.D.D.
Having taken to bed in an attic room over the garage, Fish can’t avoid hearing A.D.D. rehearse, a sound that rapidly is driving him mad. But then fate steps in. The band’s drummer has to quit, so, of course, Matt immediately thinks of his Uncle Fish.
Here’s where “The Rocker” takes a sharp turn. Wilson, who up to this point has only had to play subdued and morose, suddenly becomes the person he must have been when Vesuvius threw him out -– loud, insensitive and gross. And that’s where the humor goes, too. Hoping to tap into the wonderfully complex character Wilson created for “The Office,” Cattaneo instead has directed his star with a heavy hand, leaving Fish to lurch between puerile obnoxiousness –- such as when he insists on rehearsing in the nude -– and brief spells of compassion and understanding.
Cattaneo has fared much better with his young actors, who don’t have any laughs or pratfalls but have been allowed to develop genuine characters. Those include real musician/composer Teddy Geiger, who plays Curtis, the band’s leader; and pretty Emma Stone, the group’s feisty singer.
Most disappointing about “The Rocker” is that just about everything that happens is predictable, thanks to all the other similar movies that have preceded it.
One mild surprise is that lovely Christina Applegate, who plays Curtis’ mother, actually falls for Fish. But you have to take that on faith, because when it’s time for the big kiss, it’s so small as to be invisible.
THE ROCKER (PG-13 for drugs, sexual references, nudity and language.) Cast includes Rainn Wilson, Teddy Geiger, Emma Stone, Christina Applegate, Josh Gadd. Directed by Peter Cattaneo. 1 star.