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The Rocker | Movie Review & Trailer | Rainn Wilson, Christina Applegate in the Movie The Rocker

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  The Rocker Movie Review (3 Stars)
      Movie Reviews by Michael Phillips

 

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In this amiable vehicle for Rainn Wilson of "The Office," the bitter alum of an '80s hair band lands behind the drumkit of his nephew's high school quartet.

It's a modest but fun comedy, and for once, the high school characters look, sound and act like high school characters, not a sitcom writer's snarktastic notion thereof.

I don't want to oversell "The Rocker," but in a summer of erratic, assaultive comedies all up and down the budget scale, this Rainn Wilson vehicle -- a kind of "Home School of Rock" -- stakes out its own corner of the market.

It's a lot of fun. Its spirit is genuine and, even with the odd vomit gag, fundamentally sweet.

Wilson's mug, dominated by a significant expanse of Van Heflin forehead, is famous thanks to "The Office," on which Wilson plays paper pusher Dwight Schrute. The actor has registered strongly in movies as well, notably as the convenience store clerk in "Juno." Directed by Peter Cattaneo, who brought a working-class edge to "The Full Monty," "The Rocker" allows Wilson a chance to play to his strengths and dine out on a wild-eyed dork.

Back in the 1980s, Robert "Fish" Fishman, thrashed the drums for a rising hair band called Vesuvius. Just before the band hit it big, Fish was bounced. Cut to the present: Fish lives, bitterly and in a state of perpetual ax-grinding, with his sister (Jane Lynch), her husband (Jeff Garlin) and their teenage son Matt (Josh Gad). Matt's in a band. The band loses its drummer; Fish steps in, eagerly, hitting the road with the kids.

Here's an example of where "The Rocker" goes right. Matt is a plus-size kid with zero social skills, counterbalancing his charismatic young band mates Curtis (Teddy Geiger) and Amelia (Emma Stone, of "Superbad"). But Gad works in a lower key than Jonah Hill in "Superbad"; each sleepy-eyed utterance arrives slightly behind schedule, so that even standard-issue dinner-table trash talk directed at his sister -- "If you don't stop annoying me, I'm going to shave your head in your sleep" -- sounds like a real teenager talking, rather than a Neil Simon alum "delivering."

The script, spiced with stranger and fresher pop-cult references ("Miss Saigon," anyone?) than the norm, is by Maya Forbes and Wally Wolodarsky, whose credits together and separately include "The Larry Sanders Show," "The Tracey Ullman Show" and "The Simpsons." Anthony B. Richmond's cinematography whizzes straight past Midwestern ordinariness to flat-out unsightly, but director Cattaneo keeps the tone steady and the mugging to a minimum. Do you buy the romance between Fish and Curtis' mom (Christina Applegate)? Not really. Is Wilson a memorable physical comedian? Not yet: At this point, he's all face and voice. But he's a real actor. And he doesn't look like anyone else on the planet, which never hurt anyone.

 

3 stars.

MPAA rating: PG-13 (for drug and sexual references, nudity and language).

Running time: 1:42

Starring: Rainn Wilson (Robert "Fish" Fishman); Christina Applegate (Kim); Jeff Garlin (Stan); Josh Gad (Matt); Teddy Geiger (Curtis); Emma Stone (Amelia)

Directed by Peter Cattaneo; written by Maya Forbes and Wally Wolodarsky; photographed by Anthony B. Richmond; edited by George Folsey Jr.; music by Chad Fischer; production design by Brandt Gordon; produced by Shawn Levy and Tom McNulty.

A Fox Atomic release.

"The Rocker" Movie Production Notes

"THE ROCKER," aka Robert "Fish" Fishman, was the drummer for an eighties hair band. He was living the rock 'n' roll dream... until he was kicked out of the group. Twenty years later, the desperate rocker joins his nephew's band, "A.D.D.," finally reclaiming the rock-god throne he's always thought he deserved -- while taking his much younger bandmates along for the ride of their lives.

In this rockin' mix of physical comedy, heart and garage band/power rock/heavy metal music, "The Office's" Rainn Wilson trades his paper company desk job for rock 'n' roll fame, taking on the role of a big, sweaty, out-of-control -- and sometimes naked -- drummer who gets a second chance at rock superstardom. He's joined by Christina Applegate ("Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy"), Jeff Garlin ("Curb Your Enthusiasm"), Josh Gad ("21"), pop star Teddy Geiger and Emma Stone ("Superbad").

When we first meet Fish, he and his bandmates from Vesuvius are in full '80s glory -- knocking out headbanging songs and sporting big hair, scarves, and impossibly tight leather pants. Just as Vesuvius is about to break big, Fish is tossed out of the band. Flash-forward twenty years: the ex-drummer extraordinaire, who lived, ate, breathed, slept -- and most of all, sweated -- rock n' roll, works for an insurance company and is living with his sister, brother-in-law and nephew Matt.

In short, Fish is a broken man, stuck in a mid-life crisis. But when he learns that Matt's band, A.D.D. is searching for a new drummer, Fish volunteers -- well, really, he begs -- for a shot. Fish is over two decades older than his bandmates, yet somehow he completes A.D.D.: the brooding, hair-in-the-face singer Curtis; the stiff-as-a-board supernerd Matt; the ironic post-modern punk girl Amelia -- and now the ancient rocker, Fish.

Spurred by Fish's habit of rehearsing in the buff (and hip new moniker "The Naked Drummer"), A.D.D. becomes an internet sensation. They hit the road for their first big tour -- along with Curtis' mom, Kim, as a chaperon. But as Fish once again lives the rock and roll life he thought was almost a birthright, he begins a journey that will take him to a place even he never thought possible: adulthood.

THE ROCKER's theme of second chances resonated with the filmmakers and cast. "THE ROCKER is a heartwarming, character-driven comedy about a guy who is getting a second shot at what he thinks is his birthright and what he knows is his lifelong dream," says producer Tom McNulty, who developed the project with his partner at 21 Laps Entertainment, noted filmmaker Shawn Levy, director of Night at the Museum and Cheaper by the Dozen.

"It's a coming-of-age story, but for a 41-year-old, over-the-hill rock drummer," says Rainn Wilson. Tied into the theme of second chances, adds the actor, is the universal dream of being a rock star. "Everyone --even movie stars -- wants to be in a rock band (and vice versa). It's always been my dream.

"I was in the world's worst high school rock band," says Wilson about his own stint as a wannabe rocker. "I sang, even though I had a terrible voice. We had a band called Collected Moss. We were awful."

If anyone ever needed a second chance, it'd be Fish. Director Peter Cattaneo, who helmed the smash indie hit The Full Monty, notes that the character "has the biggest tumble a guy could ever have, missing out on the greatest opportunity of a life, by a hair."

"Fish is suspended in adolescence because he's never gotten over the moment in his life when he lost his dream," elaborates Ryan Jaffe, who penned the film's story. "He's in a pretty dark place, and joining A.D.D. is a last-gasp moment before adulthood. He stumbles into this amazing second chance at realizing his dream."

"Going to the movies and watching Fish's story unfold -- it's wish fulfillment," Jaffe continues. "You feel like you're part of the dream for two hours." Adds Christina Applegate, who plays Kim, mother to A.D.D.'s lead singer Curtis (and who becomes a potential love interest for Fish): "I think everyone wishes for second chances. People can relate to and enjoy movies about the human spirit and redemption."

Given THE ROCKER's central notions of "what-might-have-been" and second chances, it's no accident that former Beatles drummer Pete Best has a supporting role in the film. Best is renowned for being the Fab Four's first drummer, joining the band in 1960, only to be dismissed two years later when The Beatles were on the verge of super-stardom. (Best now fronts his own successful band.)

About the Cast "The Rocker"

RAINN WILSON (Fish) recently wrapped his fourth season on The Office, the Emmy® and Screen Actors Guild Award® winning series on NBC. Endearing himself to millions, he earned his first Emmy nomination last year in the Supporting Actor category for his portrayal of Dwight Schrute, an eccentric paper salesman whose ego knows no bounds, dreams of being "#2," and fervently torments his colleagues in his own lovable, pathetic fashion.

It has been said that the continual ratings growth has been in part due to a grass-roots effort spawned by the cast's Internet blogs. Wilson, writing as his character Dwight, spends his on-camera work time scripting a hysterical recounting of "Office" events, discussing everything from the inter-office antics to the differences -- per Dwight -- between men and women. Wilson continues to write the blog at least once a month during the season and it can be viewed through the show's link at www.nbc.com.

Wilson was recently seen in the fantasy family feature The Last Mimzy. In Bob Shaye's resurgent directorial project, Wilson starred as Larry, a science teacher who gets caught up in a fantastical science-fiction ride when two of his students uncover a box of ultra-advanced toys with magical capabilities to bring them into the future. Other film credits include Ivan Reitman's comedy My Super Ex-Girlfriend, Sahara, Baadasssss, Full Frontal, Almost Famous, America's Sweethearts, House of 1,000 Corpses and Galaxy Quest.

Prior to "The Office," Wilson was best known for his role as Arthur Martin, the pitiable mortician's apprentice on HBO's Emmy Award winning television series "Six Feet Under." He guest-starred on "CSI," "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit," "Dark Angel," and "Monk," and he co-starred in the TV movie "When Billy Beat Bobby."

Wilson honed his skills on stage. Credits include performances in two Broadway plays, "London Assurance" and "The Tempest." He has also performed off-Broadway in "The New Bozena," "Plunge," "Venus," "Titus Andronicus," and "Twelfth Night." He attended the graduate acting program at New York University.

Wilson currently lives in Los Angeles with his wife, fiction-writer Holiday Reinhorn, their young son, Walter, and their two pit bulls, Oona and Harper Lee.

CHRISTINA APPLEGATE (Kim) has received critical praise for her strength and versatility as an Emmy winner ("Friends"), and a Tony® (Sweet Charity) and a Golden Globe® ("Samantha Who?") nominated actress in theater, film and television.

After receiving accolades for her performance starring alongside Cameron Diaz and Selma Blair in the raucous comedy The Sweetest Thing, Applegate's range of skill landed her numerous roles in both independent and studio projects. Her feature film credits include Surviving Christmas for director Mike Mitchell, the DreamWorks comedy Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Lionsgate's Wonderland, Miramax's View From the Top, and Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead.

This summer, Applegate continues production on her hit ABC television comedy "Samantha Who?" which debuted to primetime audiences in the fall of 2007. She returned to television, this time as a producer and star playing the title character, Samantha Newly, who woke up from an eight-day coma after a hit-and-run car accident with retrograde amnesia. As she pieces together her former life and continues to discover her "new" self, she learns that she may have been a horrible person prior to her accident. With only parts of her old life and memories intact, her character moves forward living and learning as she creates a new life for herself and readjusts to daily life. Applegate's performance in this role has been applauded by critics and fans and has garnered her nominations for a Golden Globe and a SAG Award(tm). In addition, the show won a People's Choice Award in the Favorite New TV Comedy category during its first season.

Applegate first gained widespread attention as the sexy and sarcastic Kelly Bundy on the long-running Fox series, "Married With Children." After a very successful 11¬season run, she furthered her television success by starring in her own NBC comedy series, "Jesse." In 1999, the highly rated show garnered Applegate a People's Choice Award as Favorite Female Performer in a New Television Series and a Golden Globe nomination in the category of Best Performance by an Actress in a TV Series, Comedy or Musical.

In 2004, Applegate returned to television as a guest star on "Friends" as Rachel's (Jennifer Aniston) younger sister Amy. Her performance earned her an Emmy Award in the category of "Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series" for her role. She was nominated for an Emmy once again the following year for her witty performance.

In 2005, Applegate made her Broadway debut in the revival of Sweet Charity, in the starring role of Charity Hope Valentine. For her role, Applegate was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical as well as a Drama Desk Award in the category of Outstanding Actress in a Musical. Sweet Charity ended its run in January 2006. Her other stage credits include an appearance in John Cassavetes' Los Angeles production of The Third Day with Gena Rowlands, The Axeman's Jazz, Nobody Leaves Empty Handed, The Run-Through, and The Grass Harp.

In March of 2005, Applegate appeared in the telefilm, "James Patterson's Suzanne's Diary for Nicholas," based on the author's best-selling novel. The project was directed by Richard Friedenberg.

Applegate currently resides in Los Angeles.

JEFF GARLIN (Stan) is a writer, producer, director, actor, and stand-up comedian. Garlin both co-stars and executive produces the HBO series "Curb Your Enthusiasm." The unique comedy, which is one of the rare television shows to become part of the national zeitgeist, stars "Seinfeld" creator Larry David with Garlin portraying his loyal manager. The critically acclaimed series has won numerous awards, including the Golden Globe Award for Best Comedy, The Danny Thomas Producer of the Year Award from the Producers Guild of America, and the AFI Comedy Series of the Year award.

Born and raised in Chicago and then South Florida, Garlin studied filmmaking and began performing stand-up comedy while at the University of Miami. He has toured the country as a stand-up comedian, is an alumnus of Chicago's Second City Theatre, and has written and starred in three critically acclaimed solo shows ("I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With," "Uncomplicated" and "Concentrated"). Garlin recently had his first film I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With released to critical acclaim. Garlin has also directed "Curb Your Enthusiasm" and both Jon Stewart ("Unleavened") and Denis Leary ("Lock-n-Load") in their HBO specials.

Garlin has extensive feature acting credits, including a starring role opposite Eddie Murphy in the Columbia/Tristar comedy Daddy Day Care. He recently voiced the role of The Captain in the Pixar film WALL-E.

Garlin lives with his wife, two sons and two dogs in Los Angeles. His hobbies include eating puddin' and taking naps.

JOSH GAD (Matt) recently co-starred in the sitcom "Back to You," opposite Kelsey Grammer and Patricia Heaton. He began his career in theater, graduating from the Carnegie Mellon School of Drama. He then turned his sights to comedy, joining the famed Groundlings Improv troupe and later founding his own group, the Lost Nomads Comedy Troupe.

Gad appeared in the hit feature film 21, a drama based on real events starring Kate Bosworth, Laurence Fishburne and Kevin Spacey, about six MIT students trained to become experts in card counting who subsequently take over Las Vegas casinos for millions in winnings. Upcoming is a dramatic feature, Crossing Over, a multi-character drama about immigrants of different nationalities struggling to achieve legal status in Los Angeles. The film stars Harrison Ford, Sean Penn, Ray Liotta and Ashley Judd.

On Broadway, having huge shoes to fill in the Tony Award-winning production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Gad received rave reviews for his portrayal of the disheveled, "magic-foot"-using spelling champion. Other theater credits include All in the Timing, The Crucible, Skin of Our Teeth and Axis of E. Previous screen credits include a guest role on "ER" and the independent feature Watching the Detectives with Lucy Liu.

TEDDY GEIGER (Curtis) makes his feature film debut in THE ROCKER. He recently appeared in the hit series "Love Monkey" (CBS/VH1), but Geiger is best known as a singer/songwriter for Columbia Records. After independently releasing his Step Ladder EP at 15 to unexpected chart recognition, Geiger came into 2006 with the release of his acclaimed debut Underage Thinking. The album debuted in the Top 10 on the Billboard charts (#8), also winning Best Album of the Year at the Annual Musiqtone Awards. His first single, "For You I Will," sold a million downloads (Platinum in the USA) and entered the Top 10 at radio in several countries, including the Hot AC chart - a feat for a 16 year old at the time. The song was also nominated for a Nickelodeon Teen Choice Award (Favorite Love Song), and in February 2007, the video won MTV Australia's Best Spankin' New Artist award, complimenting his Gold sales status Down Under.

Geiger's songs have appeared in countless movies and TV shows, including "Prison Break," "Aquamarine" and "Beautiful People," among others. Geiger became the first male in five years to grace the cover of Seventeen magazine, and was dubbed The Hottest Guy in America by the publication.

Geiger is currently on tour and is giving his fans their first taste of 33 newly-recorded, original songs, with the opportunity to listen, rate and vote on which they'd like to see on Teddy's forthcoming album. Teddy's self-named and loyal "TedHeads" will make history as they decide which songs will make up his second album.

EMMA STONE (Amelia), with her striking beauty and sincere talent, is quickly emerging as one of Hollywood's most sought after actresses. She was recently seen as Jonah Hill's love interest in the Judd Apatow comedy Superbad.

Stone is currently filming New Line Cinema's romantic-comedy, Ghosts of Girlfriends Past opposite Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Garner, Breckin Meyer and Lacey Chabert. The film is slated for release in 2009.

Stone can also soon be seen opposite Anna Faris in Columbia Pictures' The House Bunny. Emma stars as Natalie, the president of a sorority, where a sexy new housemother causes interesting complications. The House Bunny is slated for release on August 22, 2008.

Stone's television credits include Twentieth Century Fox's "Drive" and the VH1 series, "In Search of the Partridge Family." She's also guest-starred on series such as "Malcolm in the Middle," "Medium," "Lucky Louie," and "The Suite Life of Zach and Cody."

A native of Arizona, Stone currently resides in Los Angeles.

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The Rocker Movie Review Film Critic Michael Phillips Reviews The Rocker
The Rocker Starring Rainn Wilson, Christina Applegate, Jeff Garlin, Josh Gad, Teddy Geiger & Emma Stone