Genre: Comedy Running Time: 1 hr. 42 min.
Release Date: August 20th, 2008 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Peter Cattaneo Actors: Rainn Wilson, Christina Applegate, Josh Gad, Emma Stone, Teddy Geiger, Jeff Garlin, Jane Lynch, Jason Sudeikis, Will Arnett
hough it borrows liberally from its genre brethren, “The Rocker” showcases a keen sense of parody and heart with a powerful star performance from the Jack Black-channeling Rainn Wilson (of “The Office” fame). The “naked drummer” doesn’t stray too far from his past personas, but the random, foul-mouthed spurts and goggle-eyed expressions certainly add a welcome layer of comic ingenuity. And, though it has a helping of parallels to “School of Rock” from 2003, it isn’t a total copycat.
In 1986, Robert “Fish” Fishman (Rainn Wilson) drums for the popular rock band Vesuvius – and a lucrative career seems destined to embrace him. However, a chance to play at a killer gig causes his bandmates to sell him out for fast fame, resulting in the percussionist getting literally kicked to the curb. Twenty years later, Robert finds himself in a dead-end desk job with no hope of escaping his mundane lifestyle. But good luck and sad misfortune strike simultaneously, leaving him jobless, homeless, and shacked up at his sister’s house – where the desperation of his nephew’s high school rock band lands him a spot as their drummer. What starts as a rocky, mismatched collaboration inadvertently becomes a rapid success, allowing Robert, along with Amelia (Emma Stone), Curtis (Teddy Geiger), and Matt (Josh Gad), to glimpse the dream he’s worked so hard to obtain.
For his debut leading role (for a theatrical release), Rainn Wilson manages a diverse blend of comedy and musical talent, emanating the better qualities of funnyman Jack Black. Rainn keeps his character under control so as not to get annoying, but remains erratic enough to evoke plenty of laughs. Most of the physical comedy (and nudity, unfortunately) belongs to the television veteran, who competently handles elaborate falls and crazed expressions with sincere enthusiasm. Spouting off bizarre, quotable jibes, Wilson utilizes a copious amount of offbeat one-liners and strange references that will result in a hearty chuckle for those attuned to this borderline-offensive brand of humor.
While the primary band members fill their roles quite ably, a surprising amount of laughs come from the supporting characters, with their brief moments of inspired lunacy. Most notable are Will Arnett as a crazed ‘80s rocker, and Jason Sudeikis as an arrogant record label agent whose abrasive pick-up lines never fail to amuse. Numerous cameos also fill the screen, from stand-up comedian favorites to famous musicians to anchored character actors (including Jane Krakowski, Demetri Martin, Fred Armisen, Jane Lynch, Jeff Garlin, and even Bradley Cooper).
Though the whole cast turns in fine performances, and Rainn Wilson conjures up a delirious beast of a drummer, “The Rocker’s” downfall may be its heavily-treaded subject matter. The cliché-filled plot resembles far too many other redemption-based trifles, causing even the marginally unique pieces to become drowned out by the surplus of stereotypical events. What clearly rocks though is the hysterical frontman, the wealth of impressive bit parts, and the fantastic supporting players, who bring an edgy absurdity to the entire affair.
– Joel Massie