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Rock Star

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Rock Star

Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Jennifer Aniston
Director: Stephen Herek
Rated: R
RunTime: 107 Minutes
Release Date: September 2001
Genres: Comedy, Drama, Music

*Also starring: Jason Flemyng, Jason Bonham, Nick Catanese, Blas Elias, Jeff Pilson, Brian Vander Ark, Zakk Wylde, Timothy Olyphant, Jason Bonham

Review by Harvey Karten
No Rating Supplied

In the 1960's the slogan of the period was "Do your own thing," a maxim that in part may be responsible for the downfall in influence of authority figures in today's society, film critics included (for this last notion, read Raymond Haberski Jr.'s new book "It's Only a Movie!") Paradoxically, Chris "Izzy" Cole (Mark Wahlberg) wants to do his own thing--which does not include spending his life as a repairman for copy machines--but in pushing his fantasy to be a rock musician by forming his own band, he merely copies the gestures and songs of the band he idolizes, Steel Dragon, rather than write his own songs and formulate his own style. "Rock Star," which is directed by Stephen Herek from a screenplay by John Stockwell, deals with Coles's rise and fall and the ultimate finding of himself as neither the lead singer of a prominent rock band or fixer of sick copy machines. But in its execution, Herek falls back on the cliches of the genre, emphasizing a loud sound track which simply goes on too long rather than spending some extra time developing his characters. What's more Mark Wahlberg does not have the range called for in the role of a tragic hero. Though cast in epic roles such as this one and that of a time traveler in "Planet of the Apes," he seems better suited to play smaller roles in indies like his brother Donnie, who--as an example of more appropriate casting--outshines Mark in Dan Cohen's sweetheart of a film "Diamond Men."

Though "Rock Star" has some appeal as a narrative about musicians, it embraces a major theme as well, one which touches on all of us. We all have fantasies of getting out of our ruts, of standing out from the pack and gaining the adulation of the multitude. "Rock Star" has bad news for us, informing us that fame and money may be cool but that we are not going to feel happy or realized if we lose our soul in acquiring them. This point is punctuated by the fact that the story, though fictionalized, is based on the experience of an Ohio office supply salesman named Tim Owens, who once was called on to replace the head singer in the band Judas Priest. Actual rock musicians perform in the nicely choreographed scenes which take place in front of hordes of adulating crowds--fans of the music will recognize Brian Vander Ark, Jeff Pilson, Jason Bonham and Zakk Wylde who form the ensemble of a group known as Steel Band, the very group to which Chris Cole pays tribute in the band that he leads. When the lead singer of Steel Band, Bobby Beers (Jason Flemyng), is bounced by that group's leader, Chris is flown to L.A. to audition for Bobby's place, though it's clear that Steel Dragon's manager (Timothy Spall) is not pleased that Chris invited along his girl friend, Emily (Jennifer Aniston). We soon see why, as Chris, who is hired minutes after strutting his stuff, is inundated by groupies--attractive women who want nothing more than to sleep with these alpha males who are adored by the multitude. Though Chris is at first ecstatic over his newly-found celebrity status--supported by his loving parents and even by his hostile brother--he comes to realize that he has sold his soul and that he'd gladly trade it all in to be with the one woman of his dreams, Emily.

"Rock Star," then is enlightening as a parable and has considerable entertainment value as we watch Mark Wahlberg perform, particularly the song "Stand Up," which appears to be the signature strain of the group for reasons that become obvious as we watch the excitement of the crowd soar. Wahlberg's chemistry with the syrupy Jennifer Aniston is convincing enough. She's the girl-back-home type that anyone with a heart would choose over the bimbos who pack the auditoriums, follow the cars, and live vicariously through the fame of their shallow heroes. The film itself tells us what we should already know--that not only is fame fleeting, but those who gain celebrity status are not necessarily fulfilled, considering what they have to give up of their own humanity. As such, there is nothing particularly innovative about "Rock Star," which has the misfortune of following on the heels of last year's smashing film, "Almost Famous."

Copyright 2001 Harvey Karten

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