Is it possible for a movie to actually kill rock n’ roll? Probably not, but The Rocker certainly comes close. It smooths over virtually every rough edge in the music industry, celebrating faceless competence over messy, interesting excess and making its gung-ho main character into a chaste, chastised dad figure.
Also, it’s just not funny. The Office’s Wilson has a tough time carrying the movie as drummer Robert “Fish” Fishman, who was kicked out of hair-metal act Vesuvius just before they achieved superstardom. Refusing to grow up, he works a series of dead-end jobs and nurses unrealistic dreams until his pudgy nephew Matt (Gad) needs a last-minute drumming replacement for his high-school band’s gig at the prom. A contrivance or two later and the group known as ADD is headed out on a national tour and an inevitable face-to-face meeting with the remaining members of Vesuvius.
There’s virtually no conflict or tension in the story of the remarkably easy rise of ADD, led by the vapid Curtis (Geiger), a generically sensitive singer-songwriter who pens some of the least rockin’ tunes of all time. The movie ends up turning into an infomercial for the next Teddy Geiger album (aka the soundtrack), with long stretches given over to performances of the actor/musician’s dull, adult contemporary tunes. Geiger even manages to turn Poison’s “Nothin’ But a Good Time” into anything but a good time.
Wilson is not a strong enough comedic presence to carry the movie past its sluggish plot, second-billed Applegate gets barely anything to do as the nominal love interest, and Gad and Stone are mostly filler as the other members of the band. Plot threads come and go arbitrarily, and the final showdown with Vesuvius is abrupt and nonsensical.
There is one good thing about that ending, though: It gives us one more glimpse of Will Arnett, Fred Armisen, Bradley Cooper and Lonny Ross as the goofy, Spinal Tap-ish Vesuvius. With that concentration of comedic talent, a movie about those guys might have actually been worth watching.