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The Rocker: Comedy Rhythms with Heart

Posted by goldwriting on August 20, 2008

There it is, the first Papa Gino’s I ever ate at. Your first spaghetti basket will change your life.

This summer we have seen everything in the realm of comedy from forty-year-old children and weed fueled action heroes to bumbling super spies and blackfaced primadonnas. It has truly been the summer of high concept, but the audiences are just about ripe for something solid, something familiar and something just under the radar. Who knew it would come in the form of Dwight from The Office?

The Rocker follows the dream which never quite came true for our main character, Fish. He was the drummer in a band, but in order to rocket their career to unheard of levels, they had to drop him. Drop they did, and Fish dwindles into obscurity and ambivalence towards life itself. Twenty years later the universe smiles on him once more and he gets the chance to play drums in his nephew’s band. Through a series of pop culture twists and turns the band ends up becoming an overnight sensation and Fish runs wild through the fields of his waking dreams, while learning the lessons of what it really takes to be the member of a band, not a one man show. Of course, he is not the only one learning lessons, but he’s the main dude on the poster, you know how it goes.

Getting myself comfy in the cushioned theater chair, I was fully expecting a slapstick style, overgrown childhood movie with Rainn Wilson taking charge of the blundering and buffoonery, but what flickered on the screen in front of me was much more than prop jokes and prat falls. The Rocker sneaks by the chuckles and laughter and weasels into your heart with a subtly touching story and some really soft moments. Rainn does get hit by numerous objects and suffers more than his share of bodily harm, but he also never wavers from believing his dream is right and true, not some childhood fantasy. The more subtle comedic moments are left to Josh Gad, who plays his socially awkward nephew/keyboard player. Josh delivers more than a few times and his style felt oddly akin to Dan Fogler ala Balls of Fury, a kind of straight line delivery for a ludicrous line on the page. Rounding out the bandmates are Emma Stone and Teddy Geiger. Emma personifies the “i-hate-everyone-but-the-people-in-this-band” chick, while Teddy has no problem with his sensitive, soulful lead singer persona. For those who don’t already know, this is a touch into the area of typecasting since Teddy Geiger already has a wildly popular album called Underage Thinking and he lent his pop music talents to almost all the original music in the movie. Since they were able to write songs from the characters perspective and not just layer in current pop tracks, The Rocker tips gently into the genre of musical, because the songs actually investigate the emotional state of the characters and move the story along. Also, while Teddy is selling movie tickets and soundtracks, Emma Stone is doing what few actors, especially at the young age of twenty, get to do; open two movies in the same week! The Rocker beat it to the punch, but The House Bunny opens this coming Friday and Emma co-stars in that alongside and Anna Faris and Rumor Willis. It’s a one-two punch for the young ingenue who last charmed people as the girl of Seth’s dreams in Superbad.

Lending a hand to the laugh level were a number of cameos and side characters. Jason Sudeikis from SNL drops by to play the slimiest of record label agents in recent movie history. There are moments you want to punch him, but then you wonder what might get on your hands and if it would wash off later. Christina Applegate plays Teddy Geiger’s mom and tries to balance out the adult-to-child ratio in the mix. She does a decent job and has some truly biting lines (rebutting being called a MILF by replying with calling the man a PILS, you’ll have to see it to get the definition, but I think my best friend will be using it for the rest of her life). Demetri Martin also shows up as the epitome of pretentious, film school drop out, ultra hipster music video directors and it gave me a medium level of anxiety just imagining being on a set with a character like that.

This was honestly the last movie I had any inkling would stir any feelings beyond a bubbling chuckle in my belly, but there is a sweetness to the story and an honesty to the message. It all boils down to follow your dreams, no matter the cost. If that message is spoken faithfully, no matter what story you wrap it in, there will be some people in that audience walking out a little lighter in their step, just itching to get home and pull out their old hobbies, guitars, etc. Don’t get me wrong, this is no Rocky, I doubt many people will suddenly become rock stars after seeing this, but they might just get a tiny bit of inspiration from the best place possible; somewhere unexpected.

Recommendation: I was completely surprised by it, but I’m a sucker for a sweet story. Some good comedic moments, but they are outweighed and outnumbered by the more heartfelt ones. If you’re looking for down-and-out comedy, this might no be crude enough for you. Yet, if you want something simple, with a nice rhythm, this could be the right beat for your Saturday afternoon.

p.s. Christina Applegate also holds one of the best honors ever, being mentioned in the P.M. Dawn song, Set Adrift on Memory Bliss. Let’s be honest, where can you possibly go from there?

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