Over rock and roll's "ages" since the 1950s -- and especially since the 1980s -- pop music lovers have split into separate in-groups, each one becoming a veritable religion unto itself, each one scorning The Others. That sort of musical disunion is apparent in the reaction to Rock of Ages , even among the critics, many of whom were compelled to take sides way back in the '80s, which is the setting for the movie. To them, the movie is either "sweet," or "tame" or, as Liam Lacey puts it in the Toronto Globe and Mail, "like a two-hour drive listening to a Classic Rock station." They are not discussing the quality of the filmmaking, it would seem, but reflecting their tastes in the music. "Yes kids," comments Peter Howell in the Toronto Star , "there really was a time, just before the necessary corrective of grunge, when bands like Journey, Foreigner, Poison and Def Leppard were taken seriously." Later "The 1980s were rock's most embarrassing era." Yet Stephen Rea concludes his review in the Philadelphia Inquirer by remarking, "If you have a soft spot for the glam and pomp of Journey, Bon Jovi, Pat Benatar, Twisted Sister, Steve Perry, and Styx, there are worse ways to spend a couple of hours than with this odd assortment of courageous thespians bringin' on the heartbreak, and feelin' the noize." Kenneth Turan in the Los Angeles Times praises the film for taking "songs you may never have loved and [turning] them into a musical that's easy to enjoy." But Lou Lumenick in the New York Post writes that the only reason he liked the movie is that "this plodding mess may help put to rest Hollywood's inexplicable two-decade love affair with the awful '80s, a pop- culture decade that's overdue for a break." That's the sentiment of numerous critics. To Ty Burr in the Boston Globe Rock of Ages amounts to a "corporate nostalgia cruise of a musical," although he acknowledges that the film "has its cheesy pleasures." There are no pleasures in the movie at all that Rex Reed of the New York Observer can detect (although one suspects that Reed's own musical tastes may run the gamut from Perry Como to Patti Page.) "This sloppy freak show is two minutes shy of two solid hours of screaming swill, without a shred of freshness, insight, cleverness or coherence to be detected within a two-mile radius," Reed writes. He's appalled that the original Broadway show on which the movie is based is still running -- something that he attributes "to the confounding disregard for taste and intelligence rampant among today's mass-market audiences." Although his role, based on GUNS N' ROSES' Axl Rose, is only slightly larger than a cameo, Tom Cruise figures prominently in most of the reviews. Comments Elizabeth Weitzman in the New York Daily News "As he's repeatedly proven, no one captures unadulterated id better than Cruise. It's tremendous fun to watch this worldwide megastar explore the basest nature of his own game." Manohla Dargis in The New York Times likens the whole affair to a "bad Broadway musical" but that a "whispering and writhing Mr. Cruise makes it watchable." And Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times relishes a scene in the movie in which Cruise's character is interviewed by a Rolling Stone reporter. He's "so narcissistically seductive he almost seduces himself," Ebert writes.
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