Directed by: Peter Cattaneo
Premise: Rainn Wilson plays Fish, the washed up former drummer of a 1980s hair metal band, who gets a second chance at fame when his nephew’s garage band needs a drummer. After an embarrassing viral video catapults them to fame, Fish indulges the rock and roll lifestyle and success threatens the band.
What Works: Despite a goofy concept, The Rocker works. It is very funny and has a great cast. The teen band members, played by Josh Gad, Emma Stone, and Teddy Geiger begin as stereotypes but gradually the film allows each of them to carve out their own characters and work out their places within the band. The songs, which are mostly original, are good and sound credible; it is conceivable that a garage band like this could become famous by accident and their tunes have the kinds of mainstream appeal that could get them the attention of a record company. The Rocker is a film about second chances and fulfilling the dreams of youth, but the film is smarter than it first lets on. Utilizing the techniques of Judd Apatow’s more successful work, The Rocker combines silliness with well-crafted character work. The script gives Fish a lot of flaws but there is also a genuine sweetness to the role and Wilson’s performance. The Rocker is able to avoid a major landmine by keeping Fish’s relationship with the younger band members from getting either creepy or too Yoda-like. Instead, as Fish recovers the fame and fortune he has long felt he deserved, he is also forced to face his demons and acknowledge that his life has changed, finding a way to rock while conceding to middle age.
What Doesn’t: A lot of the story is predictable, following the usual Hollywood success storyline. The character work is a counterpoint to the cliché, but most sharp viewers will map out the rest of the story by the end of the first act.
Bottom Line: The Rocker is a terrific bit of comedy. It has some solid performances and it is able to do something well that comedies rarely do at all: mine deeper into the character to find humor and build a narrative around it.
Episode: #202 (August 31, 2008)