What do you get when you take a little bit of “School of Rock” and mix it with a bigger bit of “That Thing You Do!”? You get a movie that’s pretty much a rip-off of “That Thing You Do!” and “School of Rock” called “The Rocker.” Not to say that “The Rocker” is some kind of horrible, despicable knock-off because it’s not. It’s also not terribly original or funny. It’s exactly the kind of film that I’ll forget having ever seen by the time Summer is over and that’s too bad as I do love the premise of the film and I’m a fan of Rainn Wilson.
“The Rocker” opens in the late 1980s with the crowning gig of rising metal band Vesuvius coming to a close. Beers and booze flow backstage as the band gets the news that they’re to be signed and it’s a dream come true. However there’s a catch. The record company wants to boot the band’s drummer Robert “Fish” Fishman (Wilson) and unless the band complies, there’s no deal. So they do and Fish is crushed… for the next 20 years. Vesuvius becomes one of the biggest rock bands of all time and Fish falls in and out of dull day jobs, constantly pining for the glory days. That is until he’s forced to move in with his sister and her family and, lo and behold, his nerdy nephew Matt (Gad) is in a rock band that just lost their drummer on the eve of the big prom. The band is in desperate need of a drummer, Fish is a drummer, so Fish joins the band.
From there Fish ensconces himself into the emo pop band A.D.D. which is lead by a mopey budding superstar Curtis (real life budding popstar Teddy Geiger) and rounded out by cute ‘n cranky bass player Amelia (Stone). If you’ve ever seen any number of movies in your life, you’ll be able to guess what happens next. They get big, there’s friction and strife, someone quits. And maybe, just maybe, along the way Fish does a little bit of growing up. Yawn. Then again I guess all of that’s not a bad thing, it’s just wholly predictable.
Rainn Wilson is good as Fish but his schtick of flowing silk shirts, bad metal haircut and grinding facial expressions while drumming gets old by the midpoint of the film. The only real laughs come from A.D.D.’s new manager, played by SNL cast member Jason Sudeikis. He’s note perfect as an industry sleaze bag who will stop at nothing to exploit his latest signing, and his thoughtless one-liners are cringe-worthy and funny. But the laughs were just too few and far between for me.
I also couldn’t figure out what audience this film was made for. It’s a little too raunchy for kids, but a little too sweet for adults. There’s also a key plot point in the film involving Wilson’s bare a*s and although it’s funny (at first), I can’t see how it’s going to play to the teeny bopper crowd this film needs to hit in order to find any life at the box office.
I have no problem recommending this film to people I know who aren’t hardcore film buffs as it’s a pleasant enough diversion. And there are some chuckles here and there. I just couldn’t get past the fact “The Rocker” felt like a combination of better films that I had seen before combined with the book “how-to-show-character-development-in-a-movie 101.”