Wilson leads ensemble cast in ‘The Rocker’
August 20, 2008
While so many other movies (“This is Spinal Tap,” “School of Rock”) covered similar territory, “The Rocker” derives quite a bit of its material from the latter, giving an over-the-hill rock musician a second chance.
Call it the “second-chance shot of fame” if you will, but good things might come to those who are persistent.
Director Peter Cattaneo knows a thing or two when it comes to giving someone that second shot. It was his huge, surprise hit out of England, “The Full Monty,” that gave us a sense that you don’t have to be a buffed out star to move ahead. You just have to possess a little style.
Rainn Wilson (he plays Dwight Schrute on NBC’s “The Office”) is the perfect choice to play the lead character here. Oh, sure, he might be getting a little typecast, playing the adult version of what you might expect from a Judd Apatow flick, but Wilson seems to relish the role and enjoys maybe too many of his idiosyncrasies. As the inventive drummer (emphasis on the skins here) Robert “Fish” Fishman, from the big-hair ’80s band Vesuvius, is dumped unceremoniously just as things are beginning to take off. Think Pete Best getting similar treatment just as The Beatles were breaking huge, only to be replaced by Ringo.
Twenty years later, his old band is as popular as ever and, adding insult to injury, they’re getting inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. As you might imagine, Fish is pretty bitter at getting passed over for his dream. He gets fired from his menial day job, loses his girlfriend and winds up moving into his sister’s (Jane Lynch) place. It’s pretty much rock bottom (but without the rock just yet) for Fishman.
As fate would have it, his nephew, Matt (Josh Gad), is minus one drummer for his band, ADD, which has an important prom gig coming up. Guess who jumps at the chance to fill in?
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Things get a little wacky when the lost joy of being able to play drums and entertain in front of a live audience all comes back to him and makes up for the lost decades. What’s worse is a middle-aged rocker in a band that’s playing anything but the kind of rock that Fish is used to.
Forget the age difference and try the generational attitudes of what music is. When you’re an ’80s drummer in a heavy metal band, good manners are optional. When you’re in a band that could come straight out of Disney casting … well, you get the picture.
Fish’s nephew isn’t exactly thrilled at the prospect of having him in their band, but the options are few. The other members of ADD include bass player Amelia (Emma Stone from “Superbad”) and lead singer Curtis (real-life singer-songwriter Teddy Geiger). This is Geiger’s first major motion picture, and he’s pretty good, too. He plays his own instrument, and even Wilson took some drum lessons to get into character, which added to the overall authenticity. Also, I liked that the actors playing teenagers actually look like they are teenagers.
Casting Christina Applegate as Curtis’ overprotective mom is a nice choice. She’s along for the ride after Fish’s behavior, and as chaperone on tour. And, yeah, it’s a little predictable who will need the chaperoning by film’s end, but it’s still a pleasant journey getting there. What is evident is that the kids are more adult (albeit in a nerdy way) than Fish, who has yet to grow out of his adolescence.
Rainn Wilson has made a career (well, so far) playing these offbeat characters whom you feel a little sorry for, even if they’re kind of jerks, but you can’t help but want to like the guy. Oh, yeah, if you were hoping for his Dwight character from “The Office,” your expectations will fall a little short.
He does, however, work well in an ensemble situation, allowing enough interplay so that his co-stars look good. Smart move, since this is Wilson’s first starring role. Not a bad effort.
Why, though, did I keep thinking of 1994’s “Airheads” during some of the scenes?
– Howie Nave is host/manager of The Improv comedy club inside Harveys and reviews films for seven radio stations throughout northern California and Nevada, including Sirius Radio. He hosts “Howie’s Morning Rush” on Tahoe’s KRLT radio and you can see his film reviews on “Howie’s Late Night Rush” Monday through Friday at midnight on RSN. For past reviews, blogs, and audio clips, visit http://www.HowieNave.com.
Keepin’ it reel:
Now Playing: “The Rocker”
Starring: Rainn Wilson, Christina Applegate, Teddy Geiger, Josh Gad, Emma Stone, Jeff Garlin, Jane Lynch, Jason Sudeikis, Will Arnett, Howard Hesseman, Fred Armisen, Bradley Cooper, Lonny Ross, Jon Glaser, Jane Krakowski, Samantha Weinstein, Demetri Martin, Aziz Ansari and Ellie Knaus
Directed by: Peter Cattaneo
Rated: PG-13 for drug and sexual references, nudity and language
Running time: 100 minutes
Howie gives it: 3 out of 5 bagels