‘Rocker’ a bland, senseless comedy

David Hohwald

By David Hohwald

Staff Reporter

As the summer winds down, so do summer comedies. Occasionally a particularly good one slips through the cracks, but usually the end of summer signals a torrent of mediocre comedies deemed not quite good enough to run in the middle of the season.

In the case of “The Rocker,” some of the pieces are there for a good comedy.

Rainn Wilson is hysterical on “The Office,” it has a few backup actors who have been good in the past and the premise is decent: an aging ex-hair metal drummer trying to make one last run at stardom with his nephew’s band.

Unfortunately the movie never gets any further than this.

Aside from some decent jokes about rock and Wilson taking pratfalls galore, “The Rocker” manages to be a bland, boring comedy that is so predictable it seems as though it were written in a hurry, like a bad paper.

Most comedies come down to the strength of the acting and the writing, and in both cases, the film is pretty hit or miss.

Wilson is decent in the lead role as Robert Fishman, one-time drummer for the band Vesuvius before he was replaced in a move reminiscent of Poison ditching C.C. Deville. He does physical comedy fine, but when he is asked to be truly earnest and make the audience feel for his character, Wilson falls flat.

On the whole, the supporting performances are pretty poor, though there are a few exceptions.

Jason Sudeikis is absolutely terrific as the manager of the band, and manages to emanate sleaze. His comic timing is terrific and lets him really hit his lines.

He turns decent material into gold with his poise and mannerisms. Demetri Martin is solid in the bit scene he’s in and conveys appropriate oddness for his role.

Sadly, the gems end there, as Wilson’s bandmates are a bevy of mediocre actors.

Josh Gad is a poor man’s Jonah Hill, Emma Stone does next to nothing in the film and Teddy Geiger is the worst of all, proving that a moderately successful music career does not translate into successfully playing an angst-ridden teen on-screen. Christina Applegate is hardly better, going all over the place with her role and never endearing herself to the viewer or the rest of the cast. Actors like Will Arnett and Fred Armisen are completely wasted in the film and get nothing to do.

The entire blame cannot fall on the cast, though, as the script does not give the actors much to work with.

There just are not many jokes in “The Rocker,” which makes it seem more like a sappy inspirational film at times than a comedy.

The result is a choppy film that never truly commits to either genre and ends up getting the worst of both worlds. The storyline may seem a lot like the film “The School of Rock,” and that’s because it basically is.

With little to no variation, the film becomes utterly predictable, even for a formulaic movie genre.

Writers Maya Forbes and Wally Wolodarsky have almost no screenwriting experience, and it shows. By failing to commit to anything in the film they end up bashing the storyline into the viewer’s head pretty bluntly.

They succeed in getting laughs from time to time, and sometimes the comedy is hysterical, but Forbes and Wolodarsky never build any momentum, hitting the brakes when they should be accelerating.

As for the directing, all that can be said is that Peter Cattaneo keeps all the actors in check. Beyond that he does little to merit acclaim or disdain.

The actors seem genuinely into the film, but there is definitely a bit too much ad-libbing, due in part to a weak script and in part to Cattaneo.

All in all, “The Rocker” fails to deliver much in the way of comedy or inspiration, mostly because it cannot decide which it wants to do. At times the film is good for a laugh, but the majority of this film is simply a bore.