Some say that you can get away with pretty much anything if you do it with enthusiasm. I’m pretty sure that was the thinking behind making the stinker of a man-child comedy, The Rocker. The film is all enthusiasm and no backbone. Watching The Rocker is like playing a board game with someone who isn’t very good, but who keeps yelling out all of the wrong answers anyways.
The Rocker follows the story of Robert Fishman (Rainn Wilson) as he goes from grownup back to man-child to grown-up and back again. Robert, aka Fish, was a part of a metal band back in the 80’s but was kicked out for lack of the right vibe. Flash forward 20 years to present day: Fish is working at a soul-sucking corporate job from which he gets fired after he freaks out when someone mentions the name of the band that kicked him out. After getting dumped by his live-in girlfriend, he moves in with his sister (Jane Lynch), joins his teenage nephew’s (Josh Gad) band and gets famous.
A big problem with the movie’s plot is that there is not enough conflict: Fish joins the band, gets famous, and then the movie just plateaus. There are no new issues that crop up once he gets famous. It is almost as if the screenwriter is living out his own dream of being a rock star through The Rocker; as if he could not think of issues that a famous rock star might have. The main conflict of the movie is that Fish needs to grow up, rather than pissing his life away dreaming of being a famous rock-star. But then he becomes an over-eager aging rock star. So then the point becomes, Fish needs to grow up and stop acting like a rock star. He then does that, but the difference between the old Fish and the new one is so subtle that I can’t even distinguish one from the other.
Man-child syndrome is a theme that has been plaguing our movies of late. The entire Apatow empire is build upon the foundations of the childish man. I couldn’t help but feel like I had seen this film already. I’ve seen the man-child themes in Step Brothers, Pineapple Express, and many others. But, more importantly, I’ve seen the overly-eager rock aficionado in School of Rock. Jack Black has already played the washed up over the top enthusiasm that Wilson is trying to achieve in The Rocker, and Wilson is no Jack Black. Add up the lesser ingredients of other movies and you’ve got, The Rocker.
The thing about Rainn Wilson is that he doesn’t have that ineffable movie star quality. Many stars out there make me feel that I can not take my eyes off of them when they are on screen. It was easy to take my eyes off of Wilson. He prances around in his underpants, trying to be the next Will Farrell or John C. Reiley, showing off his unfit frame in this film. Yes, his timing is great, but comedic timing can only get one so far. Wilson is best as a moronically mundane yet deliciously sardonic character, not an over the top macho sell out. This just wasn’t the right part of Wilson. He was amazing during his cameo as a sassy clerk in Juno, but he does not pull off the wannabe Farrell act.
The Rocker is a waste of time. It is a waste of time filled with almost funny lines, almost funny performances and almost good music. If you look at the cast members, you might just be duped into thinking it could be a quality flick. With the likes of Emma Stone, Christina Applegate, Jane Lynch, and Jeff Garlin, it is almost a miracle that this movie turned out to be as bad as it is. Of course, when you’ve got Teddy Greiger, singer turned actor, leading the supporting cast, its no wonder this film got so mucked up. The worst thing about The Rocker is that it doesn’t even feature rock music. The band that Fish joins isn’t a rock band at all, it is just a little emo band-let, singing about daddy issues. The music, just like the movie, will run through you like water.
The cover of the DVD for The Rocker brags that the “Born to Rock” edition of the movie contains “hours of special features.” Strangely enough, the second disc containing the special features that are advertised on the box is missing when you rent the movie. I’m sure that, if you so desired to purchase the DVD at your local electronics store, that you would get said special features. However, if you are planning on renting The Rocker, be warned: the special features are not there.
So without special features, what is there to say? The box is fairly appealing. There is a picture of Wilson’s torso, as he puts up the rocker horns with his hands, on the front. His picture is set underneath the title of the film in yellow. The back features pictures of the teen band Fish joins, and of the effervescent Applegate.
I was oddly disappointed when I found out I would not be able to experience the “Born to Rock” edition of the film. Although I did not like the film, I was interested to hear the commentary paired with it. I figured that I would end up liking the movie more if I heard that kewpie enthusiasm coming from Wilson’s mouth. I have no doubt that everyone involved in the making of this movie is nothing short of crazy about the end product. I would have liked to hear their perspective on all of those misplaced jokes and Wilson nudity. I must admit, though, I am glad that I did not have to sit through those deleted scenes. I can not even imagine what the film editor felt wasn’t good enough for this movie. Anything that is not good enough for The Rocker is just not worth watching.
Editor's Note: We will be running a Blu-ray review of The Rocker soon that will have a more in-depth look at the "Born to Rock" bonus material