ENTERTAINMENT/FILM/REVIEWS

A BLACK MAN’S REVIEW OF… “THE ROCKER”

THE ROCKER (PG-13)

Movie Biases:
It’s Dwight! But I hate rock.

Major Players:
Rainn Wilson, Josh Gad, director Peter Cattaneo.

Logline:
After being cut from his band “Vesuvius” so that they could sign a major label deal and blow up without him, Cleveland drummer Robert “Fish” Fishman (Wilson) winds up filling in for his teenage nephew’s (Gad) garage band A.D.D. twenty years later and bass awkwardly turning them into an Internet and Midwest sensation.

The Deal:
“Too loud is not in my vocabulary.” Said in his dryly aggressive monotone coupled with trademark intensely feral stare, Rainn Wilson’s Fish, and “The Rocker,” is one of the more pleasantly unexpected surprises of the summer. Sure Wilson is playing just another degree of his hilariously self-serious imbeciles, a la corporate kiss-ass Dwight Schrute from TV’s “The Office.” But why does it never cease to elicit a laugh?

Backing Wilson’s face-scrunched mugging, sweat-soaked silk rocker shirts, and penchant for nudity in the comfort of his own home (again? What is he, a graduate from the Will Ferrell School of Middle-Aged Dumpy Exhibitionism??) is a very sharp, witty, and irreverent script by TV writers Maya Forbes and Wallace Wolodarsky, teeming with an endless supply of ironic, snappy little comedic touches (”Don’t be so mature!” forty-something Robert hisses to his teenage bandmate). I laughed, and laughed consistently, mostly at Fish’s past-his-prime “Baby Huey” antics coming into sharp contrast with his underage charges’ dedication to the music while on tour; Jason Sudeikis’ smarmy, ovary-shrinking, douchebag of a talent agent; and some truly funny slapstick (also a lost art - just ask Jack Tripper, may he R.I.P.).

Even the camaraderie among the differing personalities of the band is earned and believable. You have the brooding, dark-haired songwriter/lead singer Curtis (Teddy Geiger - also the only one who actually LOOKS like he could still be in high school) with the young hot mom (Christina Applegate), Emma Stone’s (Superbad) dour, raccoon-chic, “Smiling is for the weak” guitarist, and Josh Gad’s (TV’s now defunct “Back to You”) heavy-set, whispery, confidence-lacking keyboardist Matt, nephew to the overaged, maniacally drumming glue of the group, Fish. Even though Fish claims “the universe keeps shoving Vesuvius back in my face,” do we ever doubt that he will find redemption, if not a path to adulthood while bonding with these kids?

Despite yet another homage to the flabby, middle-aged white guy running around in his briefs, “The Rocker” works largely because of Wilson’s unyielding commitment to his character - and to rocking out! I’m not a heavy metal or rock guy AT ALL yet I found the songs to be pleasant and engaging. Peter Cattaneo’s (The Full Monty) direction is unobtrusive and quite comedically focused, although the production gets a little lazy with the romances down the stretch in the face of its sweet yet wholly unrealistic ending. Still, I can’t wait to own it so I can catch all the little funny moments I may have missed while taking notes, moments spurred on by Fish’s embodiment of his mantra “It̵