Earworms for everyone
Directed by Peter Cattaneo
Cast: Rainn Wilson, Christina Applegate, Teddy Geiger, Josh Gad, Emma Stone and Jason Sudeikis
Spinoffs from advertising campaigns aren't all that rare. A recent example is the short-lived "Caveman" sitcom based off the GEICO commercials. Or the slew of fast-food mascots turned movie- or video game stars (the most successful being 7UP's 1993 Sega Genesis game Cool Spot, in this reviewer's opinion). And it's all too common to see blatant product placement on the big screen; this was best demonstrated (via parody) in both Wayne's World movies.
The Rocker isn't the kind of product-pushing scheme American audiences are used to. In fact, it almost seems director Peter Cattaneo (The Full Monty) went out of his way to keep soda cans and T-shirts obscured just enough to play a little "Name That Logo!" But what The Rocker may be, in the end, is the world's largest commercial dedicated to launching the career of young, talented singer-songwriter Teddy Geiger. So either the writers penned a mostly unmemorable comedy allowing Geiger to steal the show, or Geiger has a kick-ass promotions manager. Probably both.
The Rocker follows the life of defunct drummer Robert "Fish" Fishman (Rainn Wilson of "The Office"), who got kicked out of hair-metal band Vesuvius just before it skyrocketed to decades-long fame. Instead of letting go, Fish harbors a deep resentment that, on more than one occasion, feeds his humdrum existence. Twenty years later, Fish agrees to play with his nephew's high school garage band, A.D.D. (consisting of Josh Gad, Emma Stone and Geiger), for its biggest gig yet: prom. Seeing a chance to live his lost dream, Fish pushes A.D.D. to rock big or go home. Madness ensues and A.D.D. is soon signed to a label, touring the U.S. and staring down Vesuvius in a rock face-off.
It's apparent the producers of The Rocker were aiming to tap into the comic vein created by recent hits such as Juno and Superbad. The Rocker is peppered with one-liners ("Goodbye, Moby ... Dick" and "I only drum naked") that nearly scream, "Repeat me!" While it's nice to see Wilson out from behind the meganerd glasses of brown-nosing Dwight Schrute, Fish is a flat character with only one motivation that eventually gives way for the happily ever after. Wilson does the best he can, using his dry delivery to save many of the jokes in this flick.
The most enjoyable parts of The Rocker, and the weight behind the ultimate-commercial theory, are the songs played by A.D.D. The upstart band A.D.D. is signed by David Marshall (a delightfully heinous performance given by Jason Sudeikis) after getting thousands of hits on YouTube for a video with hilarious content (which got everyone watching) and a great soundtrack (which got everyone humming). Incidentally, that's exactly what The Rocker has done—but with a much larger budget and a bigger screen. The big Hollywood production got us watching, but in the end it's Geiger’s songs we've got stuck in our head.
The songs were written by Geiger, and as A.D.D.'s frontman, it's clear his drowned-in-angst musician thing is more a normal state of being than acting. Still, the kid's got talent and the songs (especially "I'm Not Bitter") are earworms. So is Vesuvius' hit "Promised Land" (not penned by Geiger), which can be found on the video game Rock Band.
The Rocker isn't a bad flick. It's not comedic genius, but it's amusing and has its moments. While riotously over-the-top at times, The Rocker captures every modern-day band's dream of being discovered on YouTube and makes it a plausible reality. It even manages to keep a positive air around the music industry (albeit a small one), unlike some other young-rockers-turned-mega-stars movies out there. Alvin and the Chipmunks, we're looking at you.