'The Rocker' might not rock, but it passes
"The Rocker" is such an obvious rip-off of "School of Rock" that you may feel you have seen this entire movie before - but still, it grows on you like an some old Motley Crue song.
Rainn Wilson stars as the 40-something loser Robert "Fish" Fishman who missed his shot at 1980s glam pop stardom, and just can't find his place in the world after being unfairly dumped from a rising metal band.
Eventually he is taken in by his less-than-sympathetic sister, where he is awakened from his slumber by his dumpy nephew's garage band. When the group's drummer is grounded by his mom, the young musicians reluctantly lure Fish out of retirement to rock again - if only at a high school prom.
Unexpectedly, the teen band takes off, complete with a super slimy agent, and is soon playing a midwest tour and cutting a record, which allows the middle ager a chance to live out his rock tour fantasies, far less mature than the kids.
Sure, Wilson is channeling Jack Black to the extreme here, but there is one difference - he can act, and he isn't nearly so annoying. The best scene is when Fish and the kids come face to face with his old band, "Vesuvius," which has gone on to Hall of Fame stardom - but somewhere along the line converted itself from a Cleveland band into snotty faux-Brits.
Let's face it, the '80s were pretty funny, and there's plenty of goofing to be done on the whole hair band era. If you really want to do it right, rent "This is Spinal Tap," but in the meantime, "The Rocker" is a likeable enough PG romp that is suitable for families and tells a simple, enjoyable story of redemption.
Christina Applegate plays the mother of one of the teens, who ends up with a strange love-hate attraction to our hero, and let's face it, while you'd be better off re-watching "The Sweetest Thing," you can't go far wrong with Ms. Applegate.
Will Arnett is good in a supporting role as the leader of Vesuvius, the embodiment of all that is silly about '80s rock. The teen bandmates in the group known as A.D.D. are adequate in their underdeveloped roles - Josh Gad as the awkward, shy nephew on keyboard, Lohan-looking Emma Stone ("Superbad") as the sarcastic, withdrawn bassist, and winy heartthrob Teddy Geiger as the singer-songwriter who puts his child-abandoment issues to work in Radio Disney-type hit songs.
It's a predictable cover of a of a more-famous flick, but Wilson and company bring a goofy energy to "Rocker" that still makes for fun, even though you've seen it all before.
* Our Score: Two stars out of five.