Rock Star

on September 07, 2001 by Paul Clinton
   Mark Wahlberg just might be able to make a serial killer likable.

   Wahlberg brings his good-natured playfulness to “Rock Star,” instilling some charisma and energy into a routine show-business movie and giving it much more resonance than Cameron Crowe's fussed-over “Almost Famous.”

   Wahlberg is Chris “Izzy” Coles, the singer of a 1980s heavy metal tribute (don't say cover) band. His melodious voice and spot-on imitation of lead singer Bobby Beers (Jason Flemyng) help land him in the megaband Steel Dragon after Beers storms out, complaining that other members aren't sensitive to his homosexuality.

   For the first hour of “Rock Star,” John Stockwell's script satirizes Chris' fanaticism for his favorite band. But once Wahlberg is on the inside, we get a parade of rock ‘n roll clichés: Easy-to-bed groupies, drug use and, ultimately, artistic disillusionment.

   Filled with a lot of hokey lines about “following your dreams,” the movie isn't much more than “A Star Is Born” on a rock-arena stage.

   And Stockwell, in the mangled second half (was this a three-hour movie at an earlier stage of development?), fails to connect major story points. For example, how could it possibly take Chris' girlfriend Emily (Jennifer Aniston) six months to figure out he's sleeping with nearly every groupie who crosses his path?

   Stockwell skips over a lot of the things that would help explain what's occurring, including supplying a single credible reason why the movie ends the way it does.

   The concert scenes do pack a punch, with Wahlberg (aka early '90s pop star Marky Mark) singing the original songs. The actor's stage presence is one of the movie's undeniable pleasures.

   Stephen Herek's passable direction really doesn't bring out the nuances of the story. Rather, Herek (“Mr. Holland's Opus”) smoothes out the edges with a lot of moist close-ups. Herek does cleverly splice in excerpts from some of well-known hard rock songs (including a daring use of Kiss' “Lick It Up”).

   Herek uses a bundle of real life rockers--including Ozzy Osbourne guitarist Zakk Wylde, Dokken bass player Jeff Pilson and drummer Jason Bonham--to give the movie authenticity.

   The movie is loosely based on Judas Priest, who hired office-supply salesman Tim “Ripper” Owens in 1996 after Rob Halford left the band. Starring Mark Wahlberg, Jennifer Aniston and Timothy Spall. Directed by Stephen Herek. Written by John Stockwell. Produced by Toby Jaffe and Robert Lawrence. A Warner Bros. release. Musical. Rated R for language, sexuality and some drug content. Running time: 106 min

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