“The Quarantine Stream: ‘Rock Star’ is the Dumb 1980s Rock Cousin of ‘Boogie Nights’, and It’s Fun As Hell”
(Welcome to The Quarantine Stream, a new series where the /Film team shares what they’ve been watching while social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.)
The Series: Rock Star
Where You Can Stream It: HBO Max
The Pitch: Oscar nominee Mark Wahlberg, who found fame in hip hop as the face and shirtless body of Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch, returns to his musical roots in this ultimate fantasy daydream. The Boogie Nights star treads familiar territory in this story of a copy machine repairman who goes from moonlighting as the lead singer of a heavy metal cover band to the new frontman of the very band that he pays tribute to every week. Who wouldn’t want to see Mark Wahlberg belting out cheesy metal in a leather suit with flames all over it?
Why It’s Essential Viewing: Look, I’m not going to pretend that Rock Star is essential viewing, but it’s a pretty fun way to pass the time if you want a mindless music biz movie with a hell of a soundtrack, including both familiar 1980s rock hits and some catchy but cheesy metal songs by the fictional band Steel Dragon. Though it’s inspired by the real-life story of Tim “Ripper” Owens, a singer in a Judas Priest tribute band who was chosen to replace singer Rob Halford when he left the band, this is a totally fictionalized journey into the world of rock. The movie is all the better for it, because it allows for all the gloriously goofy clichés you’d expect from a movie like this.
Mark Wahlberg plays Chris “Izzy” Cole, a copy machine repairman who has dedicated all of his spare time to worshiping the metal band Steel Dragon. That includes fronting a cover band called Blood Pollution, inspired by one of the band’s signature songs. But the band isn’t nearly as into meticulously recreating the songs and showmanship of Steel Dragon as Chris, and they’d rather play their own original songs. So the band, which includes Timothy Olyphant in leather pants and a horrible wig, kicks Chris out.
But thankfully, some groupies were recording one of Blood Pollution’s concerts, and Steel Dragon just happens to track him down as a candidate to replace their heir lead singer, Bobby Beers (Jason Flemyng), who isn’t quite the metal god that Chris thought he was. From there, it’s a fast roller coaster ride that climbs the ultimate dreams of fame and fortune for a 1980s wannabe rocker. There’s all the sex, drugs and rock and roll he could want, and Chris, now going by the name Izzy, even buys his own Batmobile (from the 1966 show). He has plenty of fun with Dominic West in full British rocker mode, and Timothy Spall being just the right amount of sleazy. But what goes up must come down, and Izzy has some totally predictable lessons to learn about life as a rock star, especially when it comes to maintaining his relationship with his girlfriend Emily (Jenifer Aniston).
Rock Star finds Mark Wahlberg on almost the exact same character arc as Dirk Diggler in Boogie Nights. But this isn’t exactly the kind of thoughtful or meaningful piece of cinema that Paul Thomas Anderson delivers. Even so, Rock Star has this entrancing, lively energy of a movie that maybe would have fared better in the mid-90s instead of arriving just a few days before the terrorist attacks of 9/11, a fate that may have ended up making it even more forgettable than it otherwise would have been.
Not every movie or TV show we suggest here in The Quarantine Stream is going to be a masterpiece. Sometimes you just need a nice trashy piece of cinema to help the day go down a little easier. Rock Star is the kind of movie you should sit down to watch with some nachos and a good whiskey, and just let the majesty of Mark Wahlberg’s impressive lip syncing sweep over you. It’s a lot better than thinking about another Daddy’s Home movie. I mean, c’mon, just look at this:
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