Published on June 15th, 2008 | by simeon0
In the colorful 80’s the emphasis was on excess. It was a time when school violence was unheard of, safe sex was a new concept to many, and excess was the name of the game. The “ME” decade as it was later to be known was a celebration of fashion, music, and sex to many and the music of the time, blended all of these elements in a new and extreme way that’s to the rise of music videos and MTV.
No longer did a fan have to content themselves with magazine articles and concert appearances. Suddenly a fan could see the favorite stars on their television any time of day or night in a barrage of music videos. Many a young fan looked at the glamorous lifestyle on screen and dreamed of someday having it all.
While the bands may have changed over the years, the excess of rock stars has remained and the desire for young people to dream of having it all has not changed. While many fans never do get their chance at rock stardom, as they grow and experience life and create new dreams, that inner desire to be the star up on stage never quite fades away as it is still locked up deep inside.
The true-life story of Tim “Ripper” Owens is what Hollywood dreams about, as it is a story of the dreamer who lived his dream. For those who do not know of Tim, he was a fan of Judas Priest who played in a variety of local bands in the Akron Ohio area. He was in a Priest cover band named British Steel when he was given the chance to replace Priest Singer Rob Halford. It seems that a person who was dating a band member had taped one of Tim’s shows and shown the tape to the members of Priest. They were so impressed that when they needed a new singer, he was auditioned and given the lead in the band he had followed for years.
The film “RockStar” is loosely based on the events of Owens, as it follows a young man who is given his chance to shine in the band he has worshipped for years. The filmmakers bought the rights to the Owens story but decided to go in their own direction leaving a film that is very loosely based on the factual events.
The film stars Mark Wahlberg as Chris Cole, a copy repair tech by day that fronts a tribute band by night. Chris is obsessed with his favorite band Steel Dragon and knows all there is to know about them and takes playing their music very seriously. At one point he implies that if it is not done correctly and with respect then it should not be done.
Chris has his world upended when his bandmates remove him from the band he started when they grow tired of his perfectionist ways and desire to play original material. The following morning Chris is called by Kurt Kuddy, guitarist for Steel Dragons. At first Chris thinks it is an elaborate hoax, but soon he is flying to LA with his manager/girlfriend Emily (Jennifer Aniston) and before long, he is given the job of lead singer of Steel Dragon to replace the recently departed former singer.
What follows is a very predictable story for anyone who has ever seen a film about Show business. The wild lifestyle and women soon surround Chris at every turn, as he learns that reality and fantasy are in fact two different things. The story becomes the old tale of drugs, alcohol, lost days, and endless women. Of course there will be a strain on the relationship between Chris and Emily and of course, people will mention how Chris is no longer being himself and is lost in his rock persona.
It seems that the film is unsure what it wants to be. Does it want to be a tale of a man who rose from nothing to the top, and found he has choices to make? Or is the film trying to be a morality play of be happy of who you are and what you have as bigger is not always better? Sadly the film never does answer the questions, or delve into what would turn an otherwise normal person into someone he is not. We know the price of fame can be high and it can corrupt people, but through it all Chris still remains a nice guy. There is no drug-induced tirade, no violence, no overdose or other accident. Instead we see Chris as a person who still signs autographs, who takes the time for people in his life and respects those around him.
The balance seems to come from showing that even while keeping himself, Chris is pulled in to the lifestyle and while his core elements remain, he is living a fantasy detached from the world, and becomes a different person in his rock persona.
Anniston is little more than the token rock girlfriend as she is supportive of her man and stands by him, but even she has her limits and is pulled into the lifestyle leaving her to make a choice about the lifestyle. It is said that test audiences did not like her character much and as a result, her scenes were diminished. My only fault was that Anniston seemed a bit old and high brow to be believable as a Rocker Chic.
Is Rock Star a great film? In a word, no, however it is at times an entertaining movie and Wahlberg is good in the role of Chris. While it will not make you forget “Almost Famous” it will entertain and show people that having is not always as good as wanting.
3 stars out of 5