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May 22, 2008


film review by Don Rose

The sun is shining on Rainn. Actor Rainn Wilson gives a fun, fierce, funny and totally captivating star-making performance in the new Fox Atomic comedy, "The Rocker." We were hooked right at the premise: drummer (Wilson) in 80s hair-metal band (with the hilariously perfect name VESUVIUS) gets 86'd just as the band is about to break big. Two decades later, the down on his luck stuck-in-lame-job drummer has a string of more bad luck (losing job and woman, moving in with unsympathetic sis) which actually brings him a ray of good luck: the chance to be musically reborn via his nephew's new band, A.D.D. (featuring actress Emma Stone of "Superbad" fame, and Teddy Geiger as the lead singer). Let the hijinx ensue.

And ensue they do. I don't want to give everything away, just trust your pals here at The LA Report that you will laugh at loud in many places along the way, and there are stellar comedy actors aplenty in the pic, in addition to main man Rainn: Christina Applegate (we loved her in "Anchorman"), SNL cast members Fred Armisen (a former rock drummer) and Jason Sudeikis, Howard "Head of the Class" Hesseman, Jane Lynch, Jeff Garlin, Will Arnett, and more. Our only (minor) complaint is that we wished these comic talents had been used more extensively, as each of them gets only a couple of minutes in the film. But there is an old saying in show biz: always leave them wanting more. Besides, these talents, as great as they are, had to make way for Rainn's reign in this pic. His exuberant performance will probably draw comparisons to fellow funnyman Jack Black, but should also catapult Mr. Wilson to the A-list of film comedy thespians.

One more point to ponder: was this script inspired by the story of Pete Best, the drummer who was kicked out of The Beatles before that band soared to superstardom, a la fictitious Vesuvius? Perhaps. In fact, Pete is IN this film (the credits say "Pete Best as Himself") -- yet we did not notice him. Being a Beatlemaniac, I was shocked to have missed him, but turns out it was a nanocameo, a real quickie, as explained on the website Beatles Unlimited:

“Rainn’s character was in this Eighties hair band, and he got kicked out right before they became famous, just like Pete Best,” [actress Emma] Stone said of the film’s plot. “So he’s sitting at a bus stop and says ‘Man, this is tough! I can’t believe this happened to me!’, and Pete says ‘I know what you mean!’. And then the bus pulls up.” Now 65 years old, Best has learned to laugh at his misfortune, and remains so famous to Beatles fans that the makers of “The Rocker” don’t even feel the need to identify him. “No, nobody ever says ‘This is Pete Best,’” Stone revealed. “[The cameo] will just be for Beatles hardcore fans.”

"The Rocker." From FOX ATOMIC. The LA Report recommends it. 4 out of 5 stars.