Strumming to the same beat as School Of Rock – albeit with a younger target audience – the new film from director Peter Cattaneo (The Full Monty) hits some of the right notes, but there’s nothing here we haven’t seen or heard before.
Indeed, coming so soon after the 2003 Jack Black film, The Rocker is little more than a feel-good cover version, replete with a denouement where the underdogs prove their not-so-heavy mettle.
Screenwriters Maya Forbes and Wally Wolodarsky tease out gentle laughs, from a musician’s strange pre-concert ritual to an excruciating chat-up line deserving of a slap in the face .
Rainn Wilson is a poor facsimile of Black as the anarchic force of nature, hoping to inspire his young charges to greatness.
He merrily knocks himself unconscious on low hanging beams, but we merely smile. Half-heartedly.
Rising band A.D.D. loses its drummer to suspension on the eve of the high school prom.
Singer-songwriter Curtis (Teddy Geiger) and bassist Amelia (Emma Stone) resign themselves to cancelling the gig.
However, keyboard player Matt (Josh Gad) has a solution: recruit his slobbish uncle, Robert ‘Fish’ Fishman (Wilson), one-time drummer of rock supergods Vesuvius, who was famously kicked out of the band and has been in an emotional tailspin ever since.
Auditions for the new drummer are a disaster, and when one techno-savvy pipsqueak argues that “lots of bands play drum loops”, Fish cannot hide his disdain.
“Lots of elevators play Celine Dion. That doesn’t make it right,” he retorts.
So Fish picks up his sticks and subsequently becomes an internet sensation with A.D.D. when footage of his naked antics hits Youtube, courtesy of Matt’s precocious sister).
The band quickly gains popularity, compelling Curtis and Amelia to confront their feelings for one another and Fish to woo Curtis’s smokin’ hot mom Kim (Christina Applegate).
The Rocker builds to an inevitable grandstand finish at a concert where A.D.D. are supporting Vesuvius.
We know the outcome before Curtis belts out a single note of his perky pop ditties, and the script ensures a happy ending for all the main characters, whether they deserve one or not.
The younger cast members deliver appealing performances, gradually emerging from Wilson’s shadow, and the romance between Curtis and Amelia rings true in a way that Fish’s dalliances with Kim never could.
Jason Sudeikis happily scene-steals as a toady record company exec who gushes unashamedly over his young proteges, likening one to “Vin Diesel wrapped in a Jeremy Piven pie”.
Over the top, like the rest of the film.