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Long Live Shlock

MOVIE REVIEW
The Rocker (2008)

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George Kraychyk/
Twentieth Century Fox

It is possible to have a good time watching "The Rocker" and still wish certain things had been done differently. For example, one can’t help but wonder how much better a movie it would be had director Peter Cattaneo been authorized to fully unleash Rainn Wilson’s talents. For that to happen, 20th Century Fox would need to be aware of the predominant philosophical conceit in recent comic filmmaking: R-rated is the way to go.

By making this movie PG-13 and targeting it to families, the studio has instantly limited the possibilities for Mr. Wilson’s mentally unhinged, washed-up rocker. To indulge in the manic, profane debauchery that ought to accompany such a part, the actor needed to be set free to behave as badly as possible. That never comes close to happening as the screenplay – written by Maya Forbes and Wallace Wolodarsky – remains tethered to the family values/everyone-learns-a-valuable-life-lesson formula that’s a sure ticket to blandville.

Occasionally and tantalizingly, the movie hints at what might have been. It does so when Mr. Wilson chows down some lo mein during a Skype practice session while completely in the buff, when Will Arnett and Fred Armisen show up as his former glam-rock bandmates, and in just about every one of Jason Sudeikis’s scenes. The film, which chronicles the rise to prominence of a band consisting of three high-school students and Robert "Fish" Fishman (Mr. Wilson), nearly works in spite of itself. But it is unsure of what it wants to be, and remains stuck somewhere between raunchy comedy and heartfelt rags-to-riches tale. 

THE ROCKER

Opens on Aug. 20 in the United States and on Aug. 22 in Britain. 

Directed by Peter Cattaneo; written by Maya Forbes and Wally Wolodarsky, based on a story by Ryan Jaffe; director of photography, Anthony B. Richmond; edited by Brad E. Wilhite; music by Chad Fischer; produced by Shawn Levy and Tom McNulty; released by Twentieth Century Fox. Running time: 1 hour 42 minutes. This film is rated PG-13 by M.P.A.A. and 12A by B.B.F.C.

WITH: Rainn Wilson (Robert "Fish" Fishman), Christina Applegate (Kim), Teddy Geiger (Curtis), Josh Gad (Matt Gadman), Emma Stone (Amelia) and Jeff Garlin (Stan).

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