The Rocker

Dumb but strangely watchable -- 2 stars

Directed by Peter Cattaneo. August 2008, USA. PG-13: 102 min.

(Originally published in buzz magazine on 8/24/2008)

Judging by the small crowd in the theater (a middle-aged father, his teenage daughter, and me) to see The Rocker for opening night’s 10 o’clock showing, I suspect that after the late-summer streak of Step Brothers, Pineapple Express and Tropic Thunder, the American moviegoing public is just about all comedied out. Plus, it doesn’t help that The Rocker’s plot invites every reviewer to compare it (unfavorably) to School of Rock (2003).

The movie follows the rise, fall, and second rising of Robert “Fish” Fishman (Wilson). Like School of Rock, the film starts with a hard rock concert in a small, local venue, after which the majority of the band dumps the main character. He becomes a dejected loser who fails to fit into the real, adult world of dull office work due to his dreams of what could have been. Then he meets a talented group of kids and sees an opportunity to rock out again — to escape the white collar life of suits, cubicles, meetings, luncheons, etc. Their band, A.D.D., consists of Fish on drums; Curtis (Teddy Geiger) as the angsty teen songwriter and guitarist; Matt (Josh Gad) as Fish’s pudgy geek nephew and keyboardist; and Amelia (Emma Stone) as the self-declared PoMo punk girl and bassist. Propelled to semi-stardom by a viral YouTube video of Fish playing drums naked, A.D.D. signs with a record company and begins a tour of the Midwest.

Forget Wilson’s “zany” humor, with all of its pratfalls, vile hygiene, outrageous remarks, and general attempt to mimic Jack Black: the oddest part of the movie is hearing the band’s music. One might think Fish, an 80s hair band wild man with a chip on his shoulder, might protest the Top 40 pop rock they produce.

Criticisms aside, I kind of enjoyed The Rocker. Sure, it’s a crappy, formulaic PG-13 comedy, but I think it appealed to the 13-year-old boy in me. I can’t really explain it, but its juvenile jab at authority made me want to steal back the dusty Pearl drum set I sold a year ago and wake up the neighbors.