January 8th, 2009

The Rocker

by Stephanie Segal • in Films
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Under this roof Dwight Schrute (come on, The Office! Rainn Wilson! Thursday night! Tune in!) is much beloved. Because of this, and my husband’s dedication to comedy no matter how seemingly silly, The Rocker, featuring Rainn Wilson, was a no escape must-see for me, despite my reservations. I was thinking Jack Black called and wants his performance from School of Rock back. I feared Rockstar with Mark Wahlberg bad. But I love my husband and who doesn’t love hot popcorn? So it was a date.

Turned out I was right and I was wrong. Jack Black does deserve some royalties or at least to be treated to lunch by Rainn Wilson. But it wasn’t as bad as Rockstar. In fact, it was kind of good. Once I was able to get over the non-deliberate partial homage to Jack Black that it is in parts I came to a decision. It was funny. Rainn Wilson made me laugh. And so did the cast around him. Tons of funny people in this movie. True, many of them distractingly from NBC comedies, but they were entertaining. Will Arnett (Arrested Development), Jason Sudekis and Fred Armisen(SNL), Jane Krakowski (30 Rock), Christina Applegate (Married With Children), Jeff Garlin (the guy who played Larry David’s attorney on Curb Your Enthusiasm), Jane Lynch (that short haired blond woman from 40 Year Old Virgin) to name (and describe) a few you might recognize. Also supporting were lesser-known actors, like Josh Gad who added plenty of the aforementioned sweetness, and who I would call a workingman’s Jonah Hill. Although Jonah Hill is kind of a workingman’s Jonah Hill to begin with, but I digress. New to me were Teddy Geiger who I found very believable in his role as sullen songwriter, and Emma Stone who though somewhat Lohan-y was also enjoyable. Some research shows me she had the all-important role of Jules in Superbad, so it turns out she wasn’t completely unknown to me after all. Just not memorable is all. Sorry Emma. At least you have a line in The Rocker that mocks my use above of the 90s joke so and so called and wants their so and so back. Call us even.

If the cast isn’t enough to sell you, and you still find yourself backing away from The Rocker on shelves, then trust what you already know. Rainn Wilson is willing to make a large ass of himself for your chuckle. OK, seeing him in his underwear might be more dismissable than hilarious, but his dedication to physical comedy reminded me of John Ritter on Three’s Company. You know you tuned in to see Jack Tripper fall backwards over a couch, and that funny bone still resides in you and Rainn wants to activate it. Let him. He will.

The script isn’t as predictable as you might guess, and where it is the jokes and their delivery make up for it. As the movie went on I kept saying ‘I LIKE this movie’, each time feeling more pleasantly surprised than the last. Even the original songs are pretty decent…not as fun and bitter as those in School of Rock, but mellow, kind of arty or sensi-rock; I doubt you’ll be buying the soundtrack, but it is listenable.

I am not going to analyze the plot here. It is after all the silly comedy it sets out to be, and you can glean much of where it might be headed from the title and the star. You don’t need me giving away what little you might not expect. If you take me up on my review and watch this movie I predict that you will find yourself similarly surprised at just how much you enjoy it overall (think of me warmly with every laugh, would you please?) and how satisfied you are with the performances of those you expect to deliver in the first place. In a year where The Happening, 88 Minutes, Ghost Town, Definitely Maybe, Be Kind Rewind (sorry JB but COME ON), Burn After Reading (Pitt/Clooney Shmitt/Shmooney you know it sucked) were turned off and Rendition, Stop Loss (both truly awful), Tropic Thunder and Pineapple Express (both of which redeemed themselves, especially PE) induced sleep to name just a few, The Rocker, which we watched through the credits and remained awake for in its entirety, deserves its due.

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