August 24, 2008

‘Rocker’ Starts Slow, but Finds His Way

By Rick Bentley

Rainn Wilson joins the growing list of actors spawned from the Jerry Lewis school of acting. Like Jack Black, Adam Sandler and so many other young movie stars, Wilson will more often turn to a goofy face, a pratfall or a never ending string of ad libs in an effort to pull a laugh out of unfunny material.

He's in full Jerry Lewis mode for "The Rocker." Wilson plays Fish, a drummer for a 1980s heavy metal band Vesuvius. Just as the band reaches Whitesnake notoriety, Fish gets the boot.

Fish spends the next 20 years on the bottom rung of the corporate ladder. He has allowed his hatred for his old band ruin every job and relationship he has ever had.

Just as Fish hits the bottom, he is asked by his nerdish nephew (Josh Gad, a Jonah Hill wannabe) to fill in as drummer for his garage band. The band has been hired to play at his school's prom.

The band seems doomed to the lone gig until a revealing video of a rehearsal hits the Internet. A million hits later and record labels are calling. Fish is pushed into that odd world of wanting to be a rock star while surrounded by a band half his age.

"The Rocker" starts slow. And by slow that means the speed at which Keith Richards gets out of bed slow. Wilson gets too much freedom by director Peter Cattaneo in early scenes. And that almost kills the movie before the music can get started.

But the film slowly finds its footing. That's because the younger band members get more time. Real life singer Teddy Geiger rocks the house when he is on stage. And he does more than a passable job when forced to act.

Gad doesn't bring anything new to the nerd character. He doesn't take anything away either. Emma Stone has the distinction of being selected the new Laura Partridge on the reality show "The Search for the New Partridge Family." That doesn't stop her from handling the role as the suburban punk member of the band.

"The Rocker" at times seems like a remix of "School of Rock." And Jack Black easily could have played the role of Fish. What saves the movie is how the band seems to come together. By the time they reach the grand finale, the movie begins to really rock.

There are a few laugh-out-loud moments. It is particularly funny that the members of the Cleveland-based Vesuvius have become so pretentious with their years of success they have all taken on British accents.

"The Rocker" grows on you especially because of the soundtrack that even manages to mask Wilson's tendency to go Jerry Lewis in too many scenes.'The Rocker'

Rated: PG-13 for language, nudity

Stars: Rainn Wilson, Josh Gad, Teddy Geiger, Emma Stone

Directed by: Peter Cattaneo

Running time: 1 hour, 45 minutes

Grade: B-

Originally published by The Fresno Bee (Fresno, Calif.).

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