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The Rocker (2008)

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 1/27/2009

All Ratings out of
Video: 1/2
Audio: 1/2
Extras: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 2/3/2009

As children, we have many wonderful ideas of what we would like to be when we grow up. It's not unusual for kids to imagine themselves as stars in the entertainment industries. For boys, especially adolescent boys, dreams of being a rock star would certainly rank as a common fantasy. Of course, most of us grow up, find a career, and leave those dreams behind. But, in our world where celebrities are celebrated everywhere we look, it wouldn't be unbelievable to learn that someone had kept hold of those dreams. The Rocker explores what would happen if a middle-aged man suddenly got the chance to follow those dreams and become what so many suburban teenaged boys wanted to be.

The Rocker opens in 1986, where we find Cleveland band Vesuvius performing to a packed night club. Backstage, the group is approached by a representative from a record label who informs that band that he wants to sign them. There's only one problem -- the label's owner wants his nephew to be a drummer, so the band must fire drummer Robert "Fish" Fishman. The story then leaps ahead 20 years. Fish works as a customer service rep, while Vesuvius has gone on to be one of the most popular bands in the world. Following a meltdown at work, Fish is forced to move in with his sister (Jane Lynch) and live in her attic. Meanwhile, his nephew, Matt (Josh Gad), has a garage band along with his friends, Curtis (Teddy Geiger) and Amelia (Emma Stone), and they are scheduled to play their school's prom. When their drummer gets grounded, Matt asks Fish to drum for them. At first, he refuses, claiming that he'd vowed to never drum again, but he finally agrees. Although Curtis and Amelia aren't impressed by Fish, playing again energizes him and he becomes determined to get a gig for their band. His efforts inadvertently lead to the band, called A.D.D., becoming a YouTube sensation. They soon find themselves being courted by record labels and going on tour. Will Fish finally be able to fulfill his dream of becoming a rock star?

Again, the dream of being a rock star could be considered a universal one, but in the mid 1980s, that dream became especially strong for many young males. As hard rock became more and more popular, garage bands popped up all over the country and many aspired to be famous. (You could also spot these guys at concerts. They looked as if they were there to enjoy the show, but more importantly to do research.) I'm not exactly sure how The Rocker was marketed...well, given the fact that it was dumped into theaters, it wasn't really marketed at all...but it should have been aimed squarely at Gen X'ers like me, because this movie truly spoke to me.

The Rocker is purportedly based on Pete Best, the drummer who left The Beatles just before they took over the world. Outside of that, the story is fairly pedestrian -- guy misses chance at fame, becomes a loser, gets another chance at fame. The skeleton of the film doesn't present anything new and there aren't many twists and turns in the story. It could also be argued that The Rocker bears more than a passing resemblance to School of Rock, and it must be said that the movies are similar. But, The Rocker plays more like a companion piece than a total rip-off.

As the old saying goes, "The devil is in the details" and that's where we get the funniest moments in The Rocker. Clearly someone involved with the film knew about or studied mid 80s hard rock and integrated this into the story. The most obvious piece is the way in which Fish dresses for concerts, but you've also got his drumming style which comes straight out of the "Hey, get me on camera!" mentality that accompanied the dawn of music videos. We then have the fact that Fish is out-of-shape and going on tour takes a comedic toll on his body. This is an incidental thing which some may have overlooked, but it pays off with some good jokes in the film. And then we have Fish's outlandish behavior. This is a man who grew up in the golden age of rock 'n roll excess and he's determined to live out his rock fantasy, no matter what anyone else thinks. So, while his adolescent bandmates are playing video games or texting friends, he's destroying hotel rooms. I don't watch The Office (it's on my list of things to do), so I haven't had much exposure to Rainn Wilson. But, he's very good here, as he's asked to take the helm of this film and play Fish as someone who is incredibly obnoxious and immature, but somehow still likable. He proves to be a brave actor (in the Will Ferrell sense) in the YouTube sequences and he proves that he can do physical comedy and deliver funny lines.

Maybe The Rocker isn't for everyone, but it should appeal to anyone who felt themselves nodding along in agreement with Old School. The movie touches on the universal theme of lost dreams, but it also speaks to those who get a bit carried away when they play Guitar Hero, as they imagining themselves in front of screaming crowd.

The Rocker makes the rock devil sign on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 28 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing no intrusive grain and no defects from the source material. The colors look very good here and the film is filled with strong tones like blue and yellow. The image has a nice amount of depth and the level of detail is good as well. This isn't exactly a demo disc, but the video looks fine. The Disc offers a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. We get nicely done stereo effects here which show a nice amount of detail and good separation. The surround sound effects are good, especially crowd noise at the concerts. As one would hope, the music sounds very good here, displaying a rich sound.

The Rocker Blu-ray Disc contains a band full of extras. We start with an AUDIO COMMENTARY with Director Peter Cattaneo and Rainn Wilson. Next up is a second COMMENTARY with Actors Josh Gad, Teddy Geiger, Emma Stone, and Jason Sudeikis. "MTV Panel" (6 minutes) has a discussion with Wilson, Geiger, Stone, and Gad...but Gad is in another location and they can't hear him. "Matt Gags" (3 minutes) shows Gad doing alternate takes for his first scene. "Podcasts" (11 minutes) is four episodes of "Book Chat" where Wilson interviews Slash. It's very strange. The Disc contains ten DELETED SCENES which run about 16 minutes. Many of these are simply longer or alternate versions of scenes which are in the film. The new material is incidental. The Disc has a 10-minute GAG REEL. "Vesuvius Gags" (4 minutes) is merely a series of alternate takes from the film's opening scene. The "Pete Best Interview" (7 minutes) has some comments from the former Beatle, along with some remarks from the cast. "Vesuvius PSAs" (1 minute) is a series of fake commercials from the band. "Rainn Wilson Office Rocker" (4 minutes) shows the cast telling Wilson how much they love his TV show. "Behind the Band" (3 minutes) is a Behind the Music spoof with Vesuvius. The cast talks about their own personal aspirations to rock in "Rock Tales" (6 minutes). "Rock Beat with Fish Fishman" (3 minutes) is a faux interview with Fish. We get the MUSIC VIDEO for the song "I'm Not Bitter". "Fox Movie Channel Presents In Character with The Rocker" (2 minutes) is a brief interview with Wilson. "The Music" (11 minutes) shows how the actors learned to become performers and also shows how musician Teddy Geiger became an actor.

Review Copyright 2009 by Mike Long