September 13, 2001

Sub-par Rock Star

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It seems that the only thing Stephen Herek’s Rock Star offers is an opportunity at stardom for the many unknowns which happen to comprise the majority of the cast. Were I any of them, I wouldn’t hold my breath for instant fame; Rock Star is an average film, and, with its mediocre performances and regurgitated plot, as easily forgettable as its generically simplistic title.

Chris Coles (Mark Wahlberg) is a zealous fan of rock-and-roll band Steel Dragon, so rabid in his adoration that he plays in a cover band and demands its members to play Steel Dragon’s music to perfection. This attitude soon leads to Chris’ elimination from the group, and he’s left to make music on his own with the support of his girlfriend/manager Emily (Jennifer Aniston). And then, one morning Chris gets the opportunity of a lifetime — an offer to replace the lead singer of Steel Dragon. He flies out to L.A. with Emily in tow, meets his idols, and soon begins to live the life of a rock star, savoring the ups of worldwide fame while Emily endures the downs of being the girlfriend of an international icon. The couple must cope with their dichotomous experiences if they want to remain together, while the audience must cope with the inevitable outcome that they probably will.

The major problem with Rock Star is that it’s nothing new. The plot is wholly predictable; there are no twists or turns. And yet while relying on so much predigested material, it’s still hard to tell what kind of movie Rock Star aims to be. While there are a few humorous moments, there aren’t enough to qualify it as a comedy (although it’s funnier than most films I’ve seen which have been classified in that genre), nor does the manner in which the plot is carried out really lend itself to such a label. And if Rock Star is indeed intended to be an overall dramatic piece, then any weight the film hopes to convey is nullified by the series of outtakes accompanying the first minutes of the closing credits. The wishy-washy character of Rock Star resonates with the audience more than the plot itself does.

With Rock Star, Mark Wahlberg continues to portray typical wide-eyed innocents who have just been initiated into worlds they have only heard or dreamed about. He did this superbly in 1997’s Boogie Nights, as the well-endowed neophyte Eddie “Dirk Diggler” Adams, on the brink of a successful career in adult film. Wahlberg is good here too, but one cannot help but wonder if he is slowly but surely — despite films such as The Perfect Storm or Planet of the Apes — limiting himself to such a role. When one considers the many similarities between Boogie Nights and Rock Star — including the time period, among other things — one wonders whether Wahlberg is attempting to carve himself some sort of safety niche.

Aniston is adequate as the girlfriend Emily, save the fact that, in reality, she appears a bit too old for the role (their ages are never revealed, but presumably Chris and his girlfriend are in their early 20s). Still Aniston succeeds in distancing herself from her role as Rachel on Friends and makes the role of Emily a believable one.

It’s unusual and worth noting, again, that that with the exception of stars Wahlberg and Aniston, all other actors appearing in Rock Star are unfamiliar Hollywood faces (the 1960’s Batmobile excluded). This level of anonymity may have been used to lend a certain level of realism and credibility to the picture; if so, it doesn’t entirely succeed because of Wahlberg and Aniston’s presence.

Rock Star is a rehash, plain and simple. It’s as if Herek merely merged the plot of the aforementioned Boogie Nights with that of 2000’s Almost Famous and came up with something that takes from both without offering anything new of its own.

Archived article by Adam Cooper