A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this movie is rated R for very strong language, nudity, explicit sexual situations (including group sex and bisexual encounters), and abuse of every kind of licit and illicit substance (even hotel room furniture). Many characters give the finger. There's an explicit close-up of a very unhygienic nipple-piercing. A gay character is insulted and fired from his job. The overall message is that the sex-drugs-and-rock-and-roll lifestyle is empty and destructive, but not unappealing, for a short time anyway. Interestingly, there is some suggestion that it is a cynical marketing strategy, though that appears to be rationalization. One nice shift from the usual format for this kind of movie is that Chris has parents who are entirely loving and supportive of his passion for metal, and genuinely enjoy the music themselves.
What's the story?
ROCK STAR centers on Chris (Mark Wahlberg), a 1980's metal band's biggest fan, who gets picked out of obscurity to become the band's new lead singer, only to find that dreams are not always what they seem from the outside. The equivalent of Pinocchio's visit to the place where boys get turned into donkeys is Chris's life of sex, drugs, and rock and roll, with increasingly more of the former. But before you can say "This would make a great episode of "Behind the Music,'" Chris sees the error of his ways, and finds the girl who loved him all along. He even invents the next new music craze, somehow switching from shrieking hard rock in leather pants to playing anguished ballads in a Seattle coffee house. Then there's the clinch and the fade-out, followed by the movie's most entertaining scenes, the out-takes shown during the credits.
Is it any good?
This is an unimaginative rise-and-fall story that never really captures our hearts or even our attention; at least that makes it easier to ignore major lapses in the story line. There is logic, there is movie logic, and then there is the kind of "throw some big musical numbers and some good-looking stars on the screen and no one will notice that it makes no sense whatsoever" logic. Rock Star is in that last category, yet it is still has moments of guilty pleasure. The movie's biggest problem is that it cannot make up its mind whether it wants to be a satire or play it straight.
Wahlberg enjoys himself onscreen, but it is impossible not to compare this to his performance in the vastly more complex and intelligent Boogie Nights, another movie about a naive young man who is brought into a world of debauchery and corruption. Jennifer Aniston is woefully underused in a standard-issue "good woman who stands by her man and holds on to her values" role, but it is nice to see the musicians played by real-life guitarists Zakk Wylde and Brian Vander Ark, bassist Jeff Pilson and drummer Jason Bonham.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how some people limit themselves to dreaming that they can be exactly like someone else, instead of thinking about dreams that allow them to be most themselves. Why was it so easy for Chris to lose his way, while Emily saw that it was wrong? Why was it important for her to have her own life and career? What do we learn about Chris from the way he gets back on stage after his fall? What does he learn about himself? Do you agree with the comment that "we all owe somebody an apology along the way?"
- In theaters: September 7, 2001
- On DVD or streaming: January 22, 2002
- Cast: Dominic West, Jennifer Aniston, Mark Wahlberg
- Director: Stephen Herek
- Studio: Warner Bros.
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 105 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: language, sexuality and some drug content
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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