The Rocker
For those about to rock … forgive this man … he knows not what he does.

Theatrical Release Date: 08/20/2008
Director: Peter Cattaneo
Cast: Rainn Wilson, Teddy Geiger, Josh Gad, Christina Applegate, Emma Stone, Jason Sudeikis, Jeff Garlin, Jane Lynch

Rainn Wilson has made a career out of cameo and supporting roles. From the American TV version of “The Office” to “The Last Mimzy” to “Juno“, Wilson has utilized his quirky squareness to inject an off-kilter sensibility into numerous roles.

Now, with “The Rocker”, Wilson gets his chance to try and carry a film with his name given top billing. In the film, we begin in 1986 Cleveland, with Wilson as a talented but overzealous (to be polite) drummer for the up and coming 80s metal band, Vesuvius. While his band mates recognize his talents, when the requirement to a record deal is dumping Wilson, that brotherhood amongst musicians disappears faster than cake at Kirstie Alley’s house.

The film then fast forwards twenty years to find Vesuvius at the top of the charts and Wilson living in his sister’s attic. But of course, all is about to change when Wilson is given the opportunity to fill in as the drummer for his nephew’s band playing the most hallowed of rock occasions – the prom. From there, the band (with the unfortunate moniker of A.D.D. … yes, it does sound too college radio) begin their ascension to stardom and, of course, Wilson eventually must face his old band mates and conquer the demons that have plagued him all these years.

Why did I bother recapping the major plot points? Well, because if anyone were given Wilson’s character synopsis (failed drummer gets second chance), they’d see this film coming a mile away … and I doubt that comes as any surprise. What is surprising, however, is the amount of heart “The Rocker” exudes. For all his quirks and no matter his willingness to shed clothing (find a happy place, find a happy place), Rainn Wilson is supremely likable. Although his character is a complete caricature of a cliché, it’s fun to see this man-child revel in, and suffer through, the rise from obscurity to success.

Obviously, the journey wouldn’t be much without the rest of the band and the filmmakers did a nice job of casting to bring the band to life (within the constraints of the script). First and foremost, choosing Teddy Geiger as the lead singer allows for some actual credibility due to his accomplishments as a real life musician. Plus, he has already tested similar waters with the short lived TV series “Love Monkey” so this role wasn’t much of a stretch, for him or the audience.

To accompany him, the script then called for the trendy chick bassist and Emma Stone got the nod here. My complaint isn’t with Stone’s acting, she does what is asked of her, but I’m tired of films needing a female component to a rock band and always sticking a bass in the girl’s hand. Let the one with two X chromosomes handle lead guitar just once Hollywood.

Rounding out the band is Josh Gad, as the keyboardist and Wilson’s nephew. He’s shy and awkward and realizes this band is his best shot at a social life (i.e. getting a girl’s attention). Again, this is a character that seems made more out of scriptwriting 101 guidelines than a necessity but Gad makes the most out of his role.

All of this heart and warmth is fine but primarily, “The Rocker” is meant to be a comedy – looking to be this summer’s “Superbad” (which also had Emma Stone). However, this is where the film roots itself in mediocrity. Many of the supporting cast are Saturday Night Live regulars from the last few years (Fred Armisen, Will Arnett, Jason Sudeikis) and too often, their inclusion just made the film feel like it was an excuse for them to hang out somewhere other than 30 Rockefeller Center.

Most of the jokes are telegraphed and/or corny and I could probably count the number of my laughs that reached audible levels on both hands. Even the screening audience I saw this with wasn’t quite rolling in the aisles. They seemed to find a few more things to laugh at than myself but if you’re really looking for something memorably funny, you might want to look somewhere else.

However, if you want a formulaic, yet full of heart, tale to pass the time, this one will fit the bill and I’m going to give “The Rocker” the benefit of the doubt and dole out a very shaky 3 out of 5. It isn’t worth the time, energy and money to see in theaters but once it lands on cable, it’ll beat watching either “The Love Guru” or “You Don’t Mess With the Zohan“. What is it with all the SNL folks and their movie deals lately? Maybe Will Ferrell’s “Step Brothers” will break this latest downward cycle … I can hope, right?