David James/Warner Bros. Pictures
Review in a Hurry: Thanks to 1980s mashups and plenty of star wattage, Guitar Hero: The Movie is here! Anyone who's ever strapped on a plastic guitar to channel their inner Journey knows the songs means zip without at least one dude that plugs in and takes the stage to rock.
That dude is Tom Cruise who sings and swaggers like never before. The supporting cast, including Catherine Zeta-Jones and Alec Baldwin, earns five-star ratings for their renditions of the biggest big hair songs ever made.
The Bigger Picture: Based on the hit Broadway musical, small town girl Sherrie (Julianne Hough) and city kid Drew (Diego Boneta) dream of being famous rock stars. Barback Drew scores Sherrie a waitress gig at The Bourbon on the Sunset Strip. The club's owner (Baldwin) and his number two (Russell Brand) have booked the legendary Stacee Jaxx (Cruise) for one night only. Meanwhile, a politician's uptight wife (Zeta-Jones) vows to clean up the filth-filled Sunset Boulevard, one sashay at a time.
All of them, at nearly every opportunity, get their inner diva on busting out into choreographed numbers. The hook is that like Rock Band, no performer is tied to one artist. Anyone can blowup a cover of Poison and follow up with an ode to Scorpion: a playlist free for all.
The first act wobbles. The songs are too literal, the dancing too structured although Zeta-Jones' version of Pat Benatar's "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" packs a wallop.
But everything goes to 11 when Jaxx is interviewed by a reporter from Rolling Stone (Malin Ackerman). Cruise stares down Ackerman with hardened eyes, speaking in the drawl of a rock god reminiscent of his role as the ego-driven Frank T.J. Mackey from Magnolia. Except this time, Cruise comes on like a raven-haired Axl Rose. Cruise's duet with Ackerman of Foreigner's "I Want to Know What Love Is" opens the film up. From there Cruise never comes back to earth. He's incredible. You simply can't take your eyes off him.
Director Adam Shankman (Hairspray) is the right choice for the denim and spandex age. Everything, like a vintage Tower Records, radiates bright colors. The editing can be hectic, but that's the spirit of the era. This is a musical where mashups are king: Zeta-Jones doing Twisted Sister's "We're Not Gonna Take It" versus Brand belting out Starship's "We Built This City" is brawlicious.
The supporting cast shines. Mary J. Bilge is strippertastic. Paul Giamatti is the most actorly (read: not a singer) as Stacee's manager sporting a wireless phone as big as his head.
When Tom Cruise is about to go to town on "Paradise City" there's nothing else anyone else should be doing but diggin' on the vibe, man.
The 180—a Second Opinion: A movie about sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll's heyday has no real drug use and only a cartoony version of sex. Talk about representing a rose-colored version of debauchery.
PHOTOS: 2012 Summer Movie Guide—Date Nights