Rocker, The: Peter (The Full Monty) Cattaneo’s Comedy, Starring Emma Stone, Josh Gad

What has happened to Peter Cattaneo, the British director who gave us a decade ago the charming movie “The Full Monty,” which was nominated for the Best Picture Oscar?
Part satire, part comedy, part spoof, his new movie “The Rocker” is such a mishmash, borrowing elements from “This Is Spinal Tap,” “Wayne’s World,” “Rock Star,” “Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny,” and most recently “School of Rock,” never establishing a distinct identity of its own.

Distributed at the end of the summer by Fox, “The Rocker” will suffer from two superior comedies currently playing widely and strongly at the local multiplexes, “Pineapple Express” and especially Tropic Thunder.”

This formulaic picture, penned by Maya Forbes and Wallace Wolodarsky (from a story by Ryan Jaffe), comes across as a pre-calculated product of a committee rather than a group of artists or even craftsmen. Worse, it doesn’t display or service well the considerable comedic skills of its lead man, Rainn Wilson, who looks uncomfortable at least half of the time; he to be suffering from typecasting on the big screen and is much funnier on TV.

A gifted cast of secondary actors, all playing stock characters, including Emma Stone, Josh Gad, Will Arnett, Jeff Garlin, Fred Armisen, Jane Lynch, and Christina Applegate, is wasted in what’s essentially a sketch extended to the length (and limit) of a feature movie.

Almost set out to prove wrong F. Scott Fitzgerald’s dictum, “There are no second acts in American lives,” “The Rocker” revolves around the idea of an aging, bitter rocker who’s given a second (and third) chance at a comeback. This high-concept have worked better as a sketch, but as a feature, it drags on, overstaying its welcome by at least 20 minutes.

Rainn plays Robert “Fish” Fishman, a once popular rock star and founding member of Vesuvius, a big, famous rock band. After decades of success, he loses his job to nepotism, when he’s replaced by the nephew of the big boss, the record executive. As if this humiliation is not enough, Fish is fired from his next employment, a boring desk job. Going through midlife crisis, Fish is in desperate need to get a new, fresh grasp of his life. Angry and frustrated, and with no viable career options, he falls back on his family, moving into the house of his sister. Her young son Matt (Josh Gad) has a garage band called ADD, in which he is the keyboard operator. The other members of ADD are the guitarist Amelia (Emma Stone), and singer-songwriter Curtis (Teddy Geiger).

Opportunity knocks, when ADD is about to play at the school prom and their drummer can’t attend because he’s grounded. What’s a group to do They ask Fish to be the new ADD to replace the kid. Initially, Fish is reluctant, but it’s only a matter of time before he says yes.

Other “obstacles” to a big comeback emerge, when Fish loses his temper and the prom performance goes bad. Not to worry: The scenarists arrange for a freak YouTube video that shows Fish drumming in the nude to go live and viral, and, suddenly, we witness a breakthrough and success.

Not to alienate the female viewers, the picture arranges for three romances, all half-hearted, between Fish and Curtis’ mother Kim (Christina Applegate), who’s assigned to supervise the tour, between Curtis and Amelia, and between Matt and a fan.

In moments, it feels as if Rainn Wilson is paying a tribute to Jack Black, who was charming and excellent in Richard Linklater’s “School of Rock.” He not only channels Jack’s energy with the kids, but even gets to expose his buttocks in his newfound YouTube fame as “the naked drummer.” (You can see Black semi-nude in a much funnier scene, varied by a water buffalo, in Ben Stiller’s wild and rude satire, “Tropic Thunder”).

After a decent beginning, the picture drops off into a series of predictable jokes and familiar musical montages. There are few scenes of genuine humor, witty lines, or funny sight gags, but overall this is utterly predictable formulaic yarn that signals its feel-good conclusion from the get-go.

Quite disappointingly, Cattaneo goes for easy laughs and cant maintain the innocent charm and feel-good that movies like School Rock had, because everything is pre-digested, sort of recycled goods. In the derivative, utterly predictable ending, Fish emerges as loveable fella, regaining his ego and self-worth and getting a chance to avenge the injustice done to him 20 years ago.

The movie’s strong opening, with a funny appearance of the Vesuvium, brings too mind Bob Reiner’s seminal and hilarious spoof “This Is Spinal Tap,” but, alas, it only establish associations and raise expectations that ultimately “The Rocker” can’t–and does not–fulfill.

Cast

Robert “Fish” Fishman – Rainn Wilson Kim – Christina Applegate Matt – Josh Gad Curtis – Teddy Geiger Amelia – Emma Stone

Credits

A 20th Century Fox release of a Fox Atomic presentation of a 21 Laps production, in association with Dune Entertainment III. Produced by Shawn Levy, Tom McNulty. Co-producer: Lyn Lucibello-Brancatella. Directed by Peter Cattaneo. Screenplay: Maya Forbes, Wallace Wolodarsky, from a story by Ryan Jaffe.