Does 'Rock of Ages' get it right? Two hair-metal gods weigh in

LOS ANGELES -- In "Rock of Ages," a love letter to spandex-clad guitar gods of the Reagan era, Tom Cruise plays a long-haired singer with a penchant for high notes a la Axl Rose. But what do hair metal experts think of his performance?...

Tom Cruise as Stacee Jaxx
This film image released by Warner Bros. Pictures shows Tom Cruise as Stacee Jaxx in New Line Cinema's rock musical " Rock of Ages," a Warner Bros. Pictures release. (AP Photo/Warner Bros. Pictures, David James)

LOS ANGELES -- In "Rock of Ages," a love letter to spandex-clad guitar gods of the Reagan era, Tom Cruise plays a long-haired singer with a penchant for high notes a la Axl Rose. But what do hair metal experts think of his performance?

Poison singer Bret Michaels, who performed at the premiere party for the film, walked away from a private screening thrilled that the most maligned era in rock 'n' roll was finally getting its due.

"The movie was awesome; it was exactly what I had hoped for," he said a few hours before the Friday premiere party in L.A. "It's the story of so many small town kids coming to L.A. with no idea what they're getting into. And they really had fun with the genre, and didn't have fun at its expense."

The film, out Friday, features A-list actors including Cruise, Alec Baldwin, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Russell Brand, Malin Akerman and Paul Giamatti actually singing and covering the biggest rock hits of the decadent pre-grunge era. Its stand-alone soundtrack came out May 15.

Like Michaels, Warrant guitarist and songwriter Erik Turner, whose era-embodying power ballad "Heaven" is covered in the film, had praise for the sincerity and affection of the film's soundtrack.


"It was great. I love the positive vibe, and the team of actors and producers was A-plus," he said. "From my perspective, this sound never went away, and to hear it in a movie of this stature is great. I love these songs and I'm so glad to have been a part of this era."

As Poison and Def Leppard gear up for a summer arena tour (Michaels' own solo album, "Bret Michaels & Friends: Get Your Rock On," is out around the same time) and Warrant continues its longtime road-dogging tours with such peers as Skid Row and L.A. Guns, perhaps it's time to reconsider the era of teased hair, leopard-print unitards and guitar solos played with your snakeskin cowboy boot cocked on the stage monitor.

We asked Michaels and Turner about some of their high points from the movie's soundtrack, and how well the actors inhabited the era. Not that the era ever really ended for them: "My daughters still party to this music," Michaels said. "Bands of our genre and that era still sell out arenas. I think people absolutely still need rock and roll. It's got a cult following that comes and goes, but when we play, there are no in-ears, no samples. People know it's raw and real."

-- Bret Michaels, Poison

"Every Rose Has Its Thorn" (Julianne Hough, Diego Boneta, Cruise, Mary J. Blige): "That was the emotional centerpiece of the movie. Everyone was singing it, and it was such a great moment in my life, watching these A-plus stars singing your song in a good movie, a song I wrote in a Dallas laundromat in the middle of a heartbreak."

"Nothin' but a Good Time" (Hough, Boneta, Brand, Baldwin): "Everyone really pulled their weight, especially Diego Boneta and Julianne Hough. You have to put a lot of passion into this song, and they just belted it."

"Paradise City" (Cruise): "Tom is such a rock star. He formed his own character, but really got the Bret Michaels part down to the hat. There are lots of great performers, but you have to have the look, the identity. Listen to Tom singing this. It has such good energy. He hung out at our Tampa arena show, and he's very intense and sincere, in a good way. When he works on a film, he always gets the part exactly right. And now he's an '80s rock god."

"We Built This City" / "We're Not Gonna Take It" (Brand, Zeta-Jones): "It feels great watching Catherine Zeta-Jones and Russell Brand enjoying a genre that's stood the test of time. All things go up and down in your career, and it's awesome to see this coming back."


-- Erik Turner, Warrant

"Paradise City": Tom did a great job. That's a hard song to sing. Axl (Rose) has this high rasp that's not easy to do. Plus, Guns N' Roses is one of my favorite bands."

"More Than Words" (Hough, Boneta): "Julianne and Diego did great, and the producers and the band did such a strong job. The drummer Josh Freese is ace, one of the best, and I liked that they hired one band to play all the songs, so it feels like one body of work."

"Heaven" (Hough, Boneta): "Music is the soundtrack of your life, and these songs take you back to the time when, say, you met your future wife. We just played Fargo to 20,000 people and a guy asked if he could propose to his girlfriend just before we played this song. He was shaking up there, but it proved that people still love this music."

©2012 Los Angeles Times

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