Rating: 1.5 stars
Behind-the-scenes casting decisions are rarely made public—it’s only way after the fact that we discover that John Travolta turned down the Richard Gere role in American Gigolo, or that Mel Gibson was tapped to play Russell Crowe’s part in Gladiator—but it seems pretty clear to me that Rainn Wilson was not the first choice for The Rocker. The role practically screams Jack Black, and, frankly, he would’ve been better at it.
I like Rainn Wilson well enough—he was deliciously creepy in Six Feet Under and brings his own strange, uptight energy to The Office. But he’s not leading man material. Okay, maybe in some sort of Vincent Gallo-helmed indie film, but in a lovable family-style romp, not so much. His eccentricity has too much of an edge.
In The Rocker, Wilson plays drummer Robert “Fish” Fishman, who was kicked out of the 80’s metal band Vesuvius right before they made it big. (Don’t even ask me to decode the horribly unfunny opening scene where Fish, upon hearing of his ouster from the band, attacks his former bandmates with superhuman strength.) Now, 20 years later, he’s working a low-end job and still bristles at the mere mention of the word Vesuvius. (In another miscue, Vesuvius are still playing metal and still big—please name for me one other 80’s hair band that is relevant today.)
Eventually, his bitterness and unwillingness to grow up leave him jobless and homeless. He’s forced to bunk in the spare bedroom of his big sister (Jane Lynch, wasted), who lives with her dopey, “everyone’s life is cooler than mine” husband (Jeff Garlin), and her overweight, nerdy son Matt (Josh Gad, clearly Jonah Hill also refused the part), who plays in a band.
Needless to say, the band will need a drummer and Fish will agree to fill in, suddenly living out his rock and roll fantasies for the second time.
Pop cutie Teddy Geiger plays the band’s mopey lead singer Curtis and Christina Applegate, winning as ever, plays his sexy mom (and a love interest for Fish—yeah, right). I liked rising starlet Emma Stone as the band’s perma-scowl sporting bass player, who harbors a secret crush on Curtis.
But The Rocker is simply unfunny, uninspired, and at times, desperately gross (Fish likes to vomit into his shirt pocket before gigs). There’s a lot of music—mediocre, Jonas Brothers style kiddie rock—which adds little to the proceedings. The Rocker feels like the work of a cover band—a game imitation, but nowhere close to the real thing.