Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Rock Star

Year 2, Day 11 - 1/11/10 - Movie #376

BEFORE: Hah! HBO added this to their On Demand line-up, so I can move it up on the program. I'm not sure yet if that's good news or not, a co-worker basically challenged me to make it through this film...not usually a good sign.

THE PLOT: Lead singer of a tribute band becomes lead singer of the real band he idolizes.

AFTER: It's not as bad as I thought it would be - or maybe it just looked good, compared to "I'm Not There". Essentially, this film is the polar opposite to "The Rocker" - instead of a musician being kicked out of a band and becoming a nobody, this is the story of a nobody who gets a chance to replace the lead singer in his favorite band, and become a somebody.

Mark Wahlberg plays Chris Cole, frontman for a tribute band based on the fictional 80's hair band Steel Dragon. He dresses, sings and acts like his idol, Bobby Beers - and when Bobby gets booted from the band, they turn to Chris to fill his shoes and his leather pants.

Once on tour with the band, it's an all-too familiar parade of booze, drugs and groupies - the 80's were the age of excess, after all, as anyone who's watched "Behind the Music" on VH-1 knows. At first it seems like his relationship with girlfriend Emily (Jennifer Aniston) can survive, but we all know it's doomed to fail in the long run.

Eventually Cole wises up and realizes that he's a "hired-gun" lead singer, and he hand-picks a kid from the audience to finish a concert, and then disappears into the night. In reality, this would be called "breach of contract" and the band's lawyers would have a field day, but this is the movies... Cole decides to move to Seattle and invent brooding grunge music - a pretty genius move to make in the early 90's.

Actually the whole concept was just a few years ahead of its time - though it's set in the 80's, the movie came out in 2001, just before bands like Styx, Foreigner and Journey parted ways with their lead singers due to "creative differences", and found new frontmen thanks to MySpace and YouTube - some of which were pulled from tribute bands. And last year the band Boston went out on tour, and replaced late lead singer Brad Delp with a guy who was a credit manager at a Home Depot in Charlotte, NC.

My wife and I had a tradition of going to Jones Beach once a year for a classic rock concert, but after we saw Boston on tour in 1996, we managed to see Journey, Chicago, Foreigner and Styx with their new sound-alike lead singers. The real money is made on the road, so if a lead singer doesn't want to tour, they're easily replaced. So for me it rang true, but I could have done without the after-school special "One to Grow On" life lesson at the end of the film.

I recognized Dominic West as the band's guitarist and Timothy Spall as their road manager, but other than a cameo by Rachel Hunter, that was about it. Jason Bonham (son of Led Zeppelin's drummer) played the Steel Dragons' drummer - Jason himself has been a hired-gun in bands like Foreigner...

RATING: 5 out of 10 tour buses

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