The Austin Chronicle

Rock Star

Rated R, 110 min. Directed by Stephen Herek. Starring Dominic West, Jason Flemyng, Timothy Olyphant, Jennifer Aniston, Mark Wahlberg.

REVIEWED By Kimberley Jones, Fri., Sept. 7, 2001

Coming of age during the Eighties, kids had two obvious paths as far as musical development went. If you were cool, you were into rap. And if you were like me, you dug the hair bands. Poison, Slaughter, Bon Jovi, Mötley Crue, Winger, Warrant -- you name it, Rock Star is a shrine to it. Mind you, it's a goofy, tongue-in-cheek, my-gawd-how-could-we-be-so-dumb shrine, but a shrine nonetheless. One-time hip-hop star Mark Wahlberg (here, so defiantly un-Marky Mark) stars as wide-eyed Chris Cole, an ardent fan of the fictional metal band Steel Dragon, so much so that he forms a tribute band devoted to their repertoire. He's so damn good at aping their thunder that when the boys in the band kick out lead singer Bobby Beers (a preening Flemyng), Steel Dragon calls in Chris to take over frontman duties; he assumes the new, killer moniker of “Izzy”, hops into a couple of three-ways, and buys his very own Batmobile (a hats-off to executive producer George Clooney?). Okay, so the plot's as fantastical and absurd as that whole, awful era, but damned if it isn't a good time. Chris quickly falls into the rawk star lifestyle, forgetting where he came from and who he loved first -- that being childhood sweetheart Emily, played by a sharp, funny Aniston who really deserves more than these second-tier girlfriend roles. Rock Star moves a little too slowly and perhaps attempts to plumb a little too deeply the admittedly shallow (and piss-and-pills dirty) waters of Eighties heavy metal. But the joy is in the details: Not just the whole hair band mentality, which the film nails to a skin-tight leather T, but also the sweet nuances between Chris and Emily, and Chris and his close-knit family (a proud Mom and Dad sell T-shirts and cassettes at the shows). The performances are all dead-on, though Wahlberg's character is really just one note, or monster wail, away from his fresh-faced Dirk Diggler of Boogie Nights (only this time it's sex, drugs, and the metal lifestyle that sends him spiraling into the bell jar … then again, not that far a cry from the porn industry). If you have zero affection for those long-ago fast times in metal alley -- and there's certainly no shame in that, in fact, it's probably a point of pride -- then Rock Star's gems will be wasted on you. But for a consistently funny and (dammit!) endearing look at a decade best forgotten, well then -- forgive me -- Welcome to the Jungle. Clothing optional, hairspray required.

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