Everybody has a reason to hate Mark Wahlberg, right? From the Marky Marky "I'm down with the hood, y'all" charade to the clearly staged "accidental" loss of his pants during a televised hoops game, Mark has certainly given us plenty of reasons to pull for him to be shot out of a cannon into a pit of flaming barbed wire.
Mean-spirited though it may be, one of life's great pleasures is seeing someone you detest fall hard and fast on his face, particularly in public with a camera documenting every sweet second of the plummet. I mean, who didn't thoroughly enjoy smug Dennis Miller losing both his football and HBO gigs within a few months of each other?
Still, it should be noted that Wahlberg is a fairly competent actor, especially when compared to other pop stars out of their element. Furthermore, "Vanilla Ice North" has graciously consented to make partial amends for his past sins by supplying us with two words we can always dangle under his nose should he get too big for his britches–when not falling out of them, that is. The magic utterance? "Rock Star"...which just so happens to be the title of MW's most embarrassing film-career offering.
While not the thorough entertainmentfest of Showgirls, it's similar in the sense that both are ideal for playing the always-fun "Guess which totally predictable, shopworn genre cliché they're going to throw at us next" game. You know, like when you're watching a third-rate war movie and anxiously awaiting the storyline to introduce the street-smart city-bred soldier assigned to every platoon since WWI, or you are taking in one of those homeboy/whiteboy actioners, trying to predict exactly when the twosome will temporarily put their mission aside for an interlude where the brother teaches the clueless cracker how to act cool.
And also like Showgirls, Rock Star traces the rise of a starry-eyed wannabe from suburb to center stage, the bumpkin coming to the shocking realization–please be seated before reading on, lest this revelation buckles your knees--the entertainment industry is rife with hustlers, backstabbers, two-faces, leeches, egomaniacs, brats and whores.
I know what you're thinking after reading that last paragraph: "I've seen enough Jerry Lewis telethons to know everyone in showbiz is kind, compassionate, humble and ultrasincere--so this movie must be a work of fiction, correct?" Being an international celebrity myself, I'd normally concur, as everyone I've encountered in my rise to iconhood has been just swell, full of nothing but love. However, according to studio publicity, this picture is "based on a true story."
Steel Dragon: leaving no cliche unturned
Actually, at Stately Central, we adore the "based on a true story" tag line, one of Tinseltown's greatest scams since offering free burials to those who die of fright during the screening of a monster movie. (No kidding, they really did that!)
The best part of the phrase is, though sounding like an official guarantee of honesty, it is in reality a license to lie liberally. A New Mexico farmer accidentally hits a cow with his tiller. Tack on "based on a true story " here, and you've instantly got the basis for a "cattle mutilation near Roswell" sci-fi script. State trooper pulls up with his flashers on then turns them off after stopping? Excellent. "Eerie lights lit up the nighttime sky around the site. They hovered for a moment, and, suddenly, they were gone."
Before I run out of space without getting around to the Rock Star storyline, let's go through a checklist of the chestnuts. But, first, here's the basic set-up. Chris Cole (Wahlberg) is the American lead singer of a "tribute band" who play covers of their idols, the dinosaur-metal outfit, Steel Dragon. Emily Poule (Jennifer "Will I Ever Be In a Hit Movie?" Aniston) is both his sweetie and his manager. Okay, here we go.
Are the members of the supergroup longhaired Britons? Do they lose their vocalist while on a U.S. tour and turn to Chris to substitute? Does Chris nearly blow it on his very first song but bounce back to rock on? Do Emily and Chris wind up waking in separate beds after a bisexual hotel-suite orgy following his debut concert? Does everything seem spectacularly cool...at first? Does Chris buy a flash car and drive recklessly? Is Emily relegated to riding in the groupie limo, no longer involved in Chris' business decisions and less and less in his private life? Does the band have a world-wise manager, a likable bloke who made a sad mistake in his youth? Does Emily decide to leave the tour? Do the original band members coldly reject Chris' input when it comes time to record, making it abundantly clear that, beneath the friendly posturing, he's considered just a hired hand? Does Emily go to the band's hotel when the tour comes to the couple's hometown, only to find Chris hosting a "ho-down," barely coherent and unaware of what city he's in? Does Chris finally grow sick of the entire lifestyle, hand his mic to another wannabe during the middle of a concert and walk out on Steel Dragon for good? Does he wind up playing introspective, sensitive alt music in tiny clubs and coffeehouses? Does Emily track him down at one such venue to rekindle their relationship?
The answers, in this order, are yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes and yes. Yep, over the course of 105 minutes, Rock Star delivers all the twists and turns of a drag strip. To misquote one of Steel Dragon's Brit-rock predecessors, "Oh, man, who needs trite TV when I've got trite ersatz T. Rex?"
Admittedly, Rock Star is among the weakest of the films to receive an M-O-M write-up. But any time someone can bamboozle a studio out of $38 million to complete a feature based on a screenplay without so much as one single original idea–not one!–then get them to pony up an additional bargeful of bucks for an ad blitz shilling Cocoa Puffs as caviar, I have to salute a con of such grand scale.
Incidentally, just in case the viewer is starting to warm up to Wahlberg, the end credits include an out-take of our hero laying down a mocking "Yo, yo, yo, wuzzup, G?" b-boy keeping-it-real spiel, reminding one and all what an absolute fraud Mark was during his past life as a rapper, constantly whining about people questioning his credibility.
In other words, just because he appeared in a laughable junkfilm, it's still perfectly okay to loathe the guy.
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