Anyone with the slightest interest in Rock n Roll knows the story of Pete Best, the original drummer who played with The Beatles until he was replaced by Ringo Starr. Its one of those moments that makes you cringe, because he was a hairs breadth from becoming a Rock superstar.
Obviously the people behind The Rocker knew this story and based their movie on it. In fact, they even had Pete Best appear in a cameo, which Ill talk more about later. The movie stars Rainn Wilson as Robert “Fish” Fishman, the original drummer for the rock mega-sensation Vesuvius. In 1986 Vesuvius takes off with a lucrative record deal, but theres a catch: in order for the record label to sign them, the band members have to drop Fish to make room for the nephew of the labels owner. Fast forward twenty years later and Vesuvius has reached Led Zeppelin levels of stardom while Fish (to paraphrase another great rock band, Pink Floyd) is leading a life of not-so-quiet desperation, bitter to the point where he reacts violently at even the mention of his former band. However, Fish gets a second chance when his nephews garage band suddenly needs a replacement drummer so they can play the prom.
In a lot of ways The Rocker reminds me of a light version of School of Rock, except that the kids are older and Fish is even more irresponsible than Dewey. Its also similar in that both are formulaic, middle-of-the-road comedies, but The Rocker is frankly too inconsistent in its approach to comedy and Rainn Wilsons performance and just isnt as funny as the other movie.
There are some funny moments, but theyre far too inconsistent, and most of the jokes fell flat for me. And it doesnt help matters that Rainn Wilson doesnt quite seem to settle on how to play Fish. There are too many times when I see bits of his character Dwight from The Office peek through in either an expression, or a voice inflection, and its rather distracting because its like watching him play two different characters. Im not sure why he comes off like that. I certainly enjoy him on The Office, but it may be that thats the only character he can play.
The kids in the cast come off much better. Emma Stone and Teddy Geiger play rather clichÃ© characters, but they play them well. But for me Josh Gad as Fishs nephew, Matt, really steals the show with his quiet, charmingly geeky performance. At first Matt seems like your typical fat nerd, but as you get to know him you realize that hes also the most well-rounded character in the cast. While his nerdish tendencies and weight bother him, he doesnt let those aspects of his life dominate him, either, which I find refreshing. Gad is a major reason why I enjoyed this movie, and I hope to see more of him in the future.
And speaking of seeing more, theres one part of the movie that I have to mention. Before I mentioned that Pete Best had a cameo in this movie; its nothing much, just him sitting next to Fish on a bus stop bench. Its a fun moment if you know what Pete Best looks like, but after watching the deleted scenes, it turns out that the scene was shortened in the theatrical cut. Let me put this another way: Pete Best, the guy who was dropped from The Beatles just before they went nuclear, had his lines cut in this movie. The irony is enough to make you choke.
The Rocker is the cinematic equivalent of bubble wrap: it takes up space, its fairly amusing, but theres just not much to it. I had a good enough time watching it, but theres nothing here that makes it particularly noteworthy or memorable. I like Rainn Wilson and the others involved, but this isnt their best work.
The movie was presented in Widescreen with the audio in Dolby Digital Stereo 5.1. There were no problems with either the audio or the video.
Commentary with Director Peter Cattaneo and Actor Rainn Wilson – Pretty standard commentary track fare, but Rainn Wilson does have some funny things to say.
Commentary with Actors Josh Gad, Teddy Geiger, Emma Stone, and Jason Sudeickis – This track isnt as technical as the other, but its much funnier. If you enjoy listening to commentary, I would listen to this one instead.
Deleted Scenes (cumulative running time: 16:09) – This is one of the few times when I think that most of the deleted scenes should have been kept in, and Im not just saying that because of Pete Best. In particular I think they should have kept the original ending, which gave a better sense of resolution to the movie.
Gag Reel (9:48) – Too many shots of Rainn Wilson in tighty whiteys. Thats all I really need to say.
Matt Gags (2:34) – Various takes from the dinner table scene. Very funny.
Vesuvius Gags (4:07) – Similar to “Matt Gags” except that its variations on the van scene from the beginning of the movie.
Pete Best Interview (6:40) – It could be me, but I think Pete is still upset over what happened to him. But I will say to his credit, if it had been me, I would have ended up wearing a suit made from Ringos skin if I were in his place.
Vesuvius PSAs (1:09) – Funny, but too short.
Rainn Wilson Office Rocker (3:29) – Three minutes of his castmates asking to be on The Office. Its actually funnier than it sounds.
Behind the Bandâ€”Vesuvius (2:39) – A fake, Behind The Music type of skit about the band.
Rock Tales (6:29) – The cast recalls their first rock concert and their rock n roll dreams.
“Rock Beat with Fish Fishman” (2:32) – Fake interview with Rainn Wilson in character. Probably the weakest of the special features.
“Im Not Bitter” Music Video (2:49) – I like the song, but the video features too many dialogue scenes from the movie for my taste.
Fox Movie Channel Presents In Character with The Rocker (2:16) – A quick little interview with Rainn Wilson about the movie. It doesnt give any real insight into or new information about the movie to make it worth watching.
The Music (11:15) – Teaching the actors how to play instruments. I found this one rather uninteresting.
Okay, I need to get this off my chest: how in the world can you have a movie about a drummer and not mention Neal Peart? That man is the living god of drumming, and not mentioning him is practically sacrilege.
Unlike Neal Peart, who sweats awesomeness, The Rocker is a fairly standard, mediocre comedy. It has a few moments, but not enough to make it memorable. Slightly recommened.
20th Century Fox presents The Rocker. Directed by Peter Cattaneo. Starring Rainn Wilson, Christina Applegate, Josh Gad, Emma Stone, Terry Geiger, Jeff Garlin, Jane Lynch, and Jason Suidekis. Written by Maya Forbes and Wallace Wolodarsky. Running time: 102 minutes. Rated PG-13. Released on DVD: January 27, 2009. Available at Amazon.
Tags: Emma Stone, Rainn Wilson