The Rocker doesn't quite fit the mold of the indies I generally see and review. It's distributed by 20th Century Fox or, more specifically, Fox Atomic -- the new youth-oriented distribution arm created by this Hollywood studio to tap into the MySpace market (literally). In fact, the social networking site holds a prominent place in the film as well as in its marketing -- MySpace and Fox are both owned by Rupert Murdoch. That said, having spent most of my adult life in the music industry, with it still being my first love, any film with rock & roll at its core is of special interest to me.

Robert 'Fish" Fishman (Rainn Wilson), drummer for 80s big-hair rock group Vesuvius, is unceremoniously kicked out of the band just as they're about to begin their volcanic rise to fame and immortality. This forces Fish to put his dreams on the shelf. Enter his nephew Matt (Josh Gadd) who, 20 years later, is in need of a drummer for ADD, the band he's formed with classmates Amelia (Emma Stone) and Curtis (Teddy Geiger). And so begins Fish's journey to redeem himself, avenge his wrong, and fulfill his dream. The Rocker is schizophrenic. Director Peter Cattaneo (The Full Monty) made two movies here. One stars Rainn Wilson channeling Jack Black and is a comedy heavy with farce and sight gags. His dialogue is a nonstop jokefest and the audience loved it. The other is an Almost Famous/That Thing You Do drama about a high school band's rise to fame, starring Teddy Geiger as their frontman. He hardly has one funny line in the script, nor do several other bandmates and family members. And that was fine by me. That movie was story- and character-driven with poignancy and heart.

I loved the ADD story (as in Attention Deficit Disorder, which might describe this movie's script). As a singer-turned-actor, Geiger carried that film on his shoulders with heart and soul. Robert "Fish" Fishman's (Rainn Wilson) story is a cute skit that felt shoehorned into an otherwise authentic musical biopic. I get the sense that co-writers Maya Forbes (The Larry Sanders Show) and Wally Wolodarsky (The Simpsons) submitted two separate scripts and the producers couldn't decide which one to go with, so they flipped 'em like a deck of cards and played the hand that came up.

Fortunately, the best thing about The Rocker is, indeed, the music. While the soundtrack does include your standard classic 80s rock and hair band tunes (Kiss, Foreigner) it's the original music which made this movie work for me. Just as one could listen to That Thing You Do over and over and over (which was exactly what writer/director Tom Hanks was aiming for in his film of the same name), the songs by Chad Fischer are good enough that I could have closed my eyes and still enjoyed the movie. Not only that, but the "star" of the film, Teddy Geiger, (Rainn Wilson aside) is a bonafide singer/songwriter who actually does do all the singing himself. As Wilson pointed out in the Q&A following the screening I attended, having authentic music performed by a real band was a priority, and Fischer's songs along with Geiger's artistry fit the bill.

Take out Fischer's original soundtrack and Geiger's performance and what's left is a tolerable 90 minute film that I wouldn't even be writing about right now. As it is, at one hour forty-two minutes, I couldn't wait for the credits to roll so I could go out and buy the soundtrack.


Author

Larry Richman

Larry Richman

For 20 years I was a professional in the entertainment industry, from commercial broadcast radio in America's fourth largest market to band management to record production. But my passion is independent film, and I spend much of the year traveling to film festivals to see indies and meet the actors, directors, and others responsible for creating them. I'm a writer, photographer, and videographer, currently serving as Senior Vice President for Media & Technology and Public Relations at PROnetworks as well as Editor at Larry411.com

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