The Rocker – DVD Review
By Frankie Dees Jan 26, 2009, 17:25 GMT
Twenty years after being kicked out of his nearly famous ’80s hair band, Robert “Fish” Fishman (Wilson) finds himself trapped in a dead-end office job and living with his sister’s family. But when opportunity rocks, Fish gets a hilarious second chance at stardom, and without missing a beat, the desperate drummer vows to reclaim the rock-god throne he always thought he deserved! ...more
Rainn Wilson, of 'The Office', makes his rather meager bid for big screen stardom with 'The Rocker.' It is a film that looks and acts like a low-rent Jack Black vehicle, that couldn't afford Black and had to make due with Wilson. A few laughs are to be had in the quaint script, but if you don't like Wilson's mugging then keep moving.
On the TV front including 'Six Feet Under', Wilson has made a career out of playing strangely appealing jackasses and Wilson doesn't try to stray too much from that formula for his film debut. A little more sympathy and little less creepiness perhaps, but this is Wilson's schtick all the way.
Robert "Fish" FIshman is at the height of his awesome drumming powers with his 80s band Vesuvius. The band is on the cusp of superstardom and on the night that the band gets signed to a record contract, the bandmates (including Bradley Cooper, Will Arnett and Fred Armisen - all funny and decidedly more fascinating than our hero) show no loyalty when booting Fish from the band on the request of a record label bigwig who wants his nephew to drum.
He confronts the band in one of the film's funnier sequences but to no avail - he's destined for a long, sad life of what might have been. 20 years later, Fish is stuck in soul-sucking jobs and still having to suffer the fame of Vesuvius, a long-time rock sensation. Living out of his sister’s musty attic, he's completely aimless until his teen nephew Matt (Josh Gad) needs a temp drummer for his band's prom gig.
At first refusing, the nephew goads him out of retirement where he initially makes an ass out of himself at the prom going all heavy metal when the brooding lead singer (Teddy Geiger) is doing an emo version of Peter Gabriel's 'In Your Eyes' (certainly an appropriate teen anthem but are teens that self-aware?...I know I wasn't...).
Getting the drumming bug again, he convinces the band (A.D.D.) that also includes sarcastic, punk bassist (Emma Stone) to take him in if he can score a gig for them. Although he does happen to score a gig across the country, the band really takes off when Fish obliviously mistakes a camera for a microphone when staging a computer network rehearsal (they all got grounded trying to sneak to aforementioned gig) and does his drum set naked.
This footage, of course, finds itself on YouTube and 'Naked Drummer' becomes a phenomenon and attracts fans and even a record agent but once the band makes a name for it's music, is the out-of-touch 80s rocker Fish out of place in A.D.D.? - is Fish destined to get kicked out of bands just on the cusp of superstardom?
With direction from Peter Cattaneo ('The Full Monty') and a script by 'The Simpsons' and 'The Larry Sanders Show' vets Wallace Woladarsky and Maya Forbes, you might be forgiven for expecting a bit more yet I must also say the film isn't quite as bad as I've heard. I don't mind Wilson's mugging and this relic of a hard-rock era is the perfect animated match for his many facial contortions.
The film also wisely fills out supporting roles that includes Jeff Garlin, Jane Lynch, Will Arnett, Emma Stone and Christina Applegate as the mother of the emo lead singer who is fashioned as the love interest. So even if the roles aren't quite there, there are at least some seasoned pros to breathe some life into them. It's an old-fashioned affair to be sure but not altogether charmless.
The film is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. A bounty of special features are included that starts off with a feature-length audio commentary with director Peter Cattaneo and Rainn Wilson and a commentary from actors Emma Stone, Josh Cad, Jason Sudeikis and Teddy Geiger.
Lively tracks both of them, but the sense of humor on the latter come up a bit lacking. We get sixteen minutes of 'Deleted Scenes', a ten-minute 'Gag Reel' and a five-minute 'MTV Panel'.
We get 10 minutes of 'Podcasts' where Wilson interviews Slash, 'Vesuvius Gags' is some quick improv from Cooper, Arnett and Armisen, a 'Pete Best Interview' where the former Beatle drummer (whose story loosely inspired this film) tells his quick story and how he got involved with the film and prep for his cameo.
'Vesuvius PSAs' is what it sounds like, 'Rainn Wilson: Office Rocker' is a couple minutes of 'The Office' cast trying to hit up Wilson for roles in the film; if they only knew...., 'Behind the Band: Vesuvius' is a quick goof on the VH1's 'Behind the Music' series. 'Rock Tales' is about six minutes and interviews the cast about their actual musical dreams.
'Rock Beat with Fish Fishman' is quick interview with Wilson as Fish, 'I'm Not Bitter' promo music video, 'Fox Movie Channel Presents: In Character with 'The Rocker' is two minutes of Wilson talking about the film and finally 'The Music', one of the few featurettes that actually shed light on the film which looks at the songs. Whew! A lot of stuff here even if most of it doesn't crack five minutes.
Ultimately, there's no denying this script was probably fashioned to court Jack Black, or even Will Ferrell, yet Wilson gives it his all and I had a decent time with the flick. Not particularly ambitious on any level, we still get a solid cast and some fun gags lampooning the easy target of 80s heavy metal. Rent it if you like Wilson.