"The Rocker" is a 2008 comedy flop starring Rainn Wilson from the popular television show "The Office" and inspired by former Beatle drummer Pete Best's replacement from the Fab Four just before they hit worldwide superstardom. Budgeted at roughly $15 million dollars, "The Rocker" performed very poorly in its theatrical release and did not make many friends amongst film critics. The film now tries to recoup some of its original production and marketing costs with a second life on DVD and Blu-ray video. With the picture making just around $7 million in box office receipts and the economy currently in shambles, consumers are weary about which purchases to make. So, can "The Rocker" succeed in retail sales? Is it worth the time and money to purchase and watch the film?
Before getting deeper into the review of the film, here is the story in a nutshell. Robert "Fish" Fishman begins the film as the heart and drummer of the up and coming band Vesuvius. However, just as they make it to the big time, Fish is ejected from the band because he doesn't convey an MTV friendly image. This shatters Fish after his dejection from his band mates and he spends the next twenty years hiding from music and from the mega success of Vesuvius. One day a coworker forces Fish to listen to the latest album from his former band and Fish short circuits at work and finds him without a job and dumped by his girlfriend. Needing a place to stay, Fish moves in with his sister Lisa (Jane Lynch) and her husband Stan (Jeff Garlin) and takes temporary refuge in her attic.
Fish's nephew Matt (Josh Gad) has always looked towards Fish as being an awful nephew. Fate would have it that Matt and his band A.D.D. finds themselves without a drummer and a gig playing their school prom is placed into jeopardy. The other members of A.D.D. include brooding Curtis (Teddy Geiger) and cute, but angst ridden Amelia (Emma). The two are reluctant at first to allow Fish to join their band, but after they fail miserably in trying to find a replacement, they agree to allow Fish to be their drummer for the prom. The prom gig goes smoothly at first, but Fish finds himself caught up in emotion during the first dance between the prom king and queen and belts out an overpowering drum solo that destroys the mood of the slow dance and quickly ends the night for Matt, Curtis and Amelia.
Eventually, Fish is forgiven and he uses his former contacts to land a gig for A.D.D. Things turn sour after the gig and the band is forbidden to play together. Matt conjures up an idea to practice using webcams, but Fish doesn't quite have any self dignity and practices in the nude. This practice session is recorded and A.D.D. and the ‘Naked Drummer' quickly become YouTube sensations. This launches A.D.D. into the spotlight and they become an up and coming band that is asked to tour, make videos and deal with stardom. With Fish's inability to be a proper adult, Curtis' beautiful mother Kim (Christina Applegate) travels during the tour against the bands wishes, but finds friendship with the childlike Fish. The band' success and continuation come into question when they are asked to open up for Vesuvius during their inauguration into the Cleveland Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Director Peter Cattaneo found success with the clever and witty "The Full Monty," but with "The Rocker," he fails to find that originality that earned him accolades for his previous film. "The Rocker" isn't a bad film, but it is a run of the mill comedy that never hits a high note and the melody it attains is pretty flat. With so many recycled elements, "The Rocker" lacks anything that can make it truly special. There are so many better musical comedies out there that include "Spinal Tap," "The School of Rock" and the more dramatic "Almost Famous." In "The Rocker," Cattaneo and the screenwriting team of Maya Forbes and Wallace Wolodarsky try desperately to find a formula to make this something special, but it never finds its own niche within the genre.
Rainn Wilson has found an audience while being solidly cast in "The Office," but he just doesn't fit in the role of Fish. Watching the chunky actor wiggle his posterior on screen lacks humor and is far too crude to succeed even as gross out comedy. The two building romances in the film lack any emotion to make "The Rocker" a comedy worthwhile of a date night. One wonders how much better this film would have been with Adam Sandler in the lead role while remembering the far more entertaining "The Wedding Singer." A large number of actors could have made this film a lot funnier and Wilson just isn't ready for lead actor roles. He cannot carry a film and would work far better in an ensemble cast.
I'm honestly torn on whether I liked this film or just enjoyed it enough that I made it to the end credits. I will, however, state now that "The Rocker" is a rental at best. I didn't enjoy watching the film enough to recommend it as a purchase, but it would be entertaining enough for a cold and wintry weeknight. The film has been slammed by other critics for borrowing heavily from the themes of "School of Rock" and there were times when I felt that star Wilson was trying to channel Jack Black in his performance. That was certainly a superior film and if you have seen "School of Rock," then you probably have less reason to watch this inferior facsimile. There are so many good comedies out there, but few deal with the music business and although it does clone much of other films, the subgenre is sparse enough that music lovers would still find enough value in the recycled story.
The high definition release of "The Rocker" arrives onto Blu-ray with a strong looking 1.85:1 transfer that is both highly detailed and full of vivid colors. From the moment the opening titles begin to the final moments, there are some very dazzling looking scenes in "The Rocker." When lighting is strong, this is an above average looking film. However, "The Rocker" contains a number of darkly lit concert scenes and at these times the lighting and cinematography are hindrances to the level of detail and are slightly muddy in appearance thanks to a less than stellar black level. The fictional band Vesuvius and Rainn Wilson's outfits provide the best coloring in the film and the colors are very nicely saturated. The transfer is strong and there are no digital flaws in the AVC mastering. Had the darker scenes kept pace with the rest of the film this would have been a very solid looking title, but it is generally very good.
Director Peter Cattaneo wanted the music of "The Rocker" to be a strong element and to rival the film's comedy. The English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack doesn't keep the music from being enjoyed, but the multi-channel surround mix doesn't give much of a reason to crank the volume up real loud. This is a front heavy mix that is dialogue-centric when the concert sequences aren't present and during much of the film the rear surrounds are used sparingly, as is the .1 LFE subwoofer channel. When the music does pick up, there is a little more energy to the soundtrack, but the high bandwidth audio mix won't compete with the now defunct DVD-Audio and SACD formats in delivering the music to the listener. Dialogue is the primary element to this film and it is kept clean and clear.
"The Rocker" is released onto Blu-ray without taking advantage of the high definition format. The release is billed as a Digital Copy Special Edition, but beyond the included DVD there are no features that push modern technology. The digital copy can be installed on any iTunes or Windows Media Player capable platform such as Apple iPod or Microsoft Zune personal devices. While this doesn't really push the envelope of technology, it has been commonplace on most newer releases and does add a little value to the higher priced Blu-ray software. The disc does boot with a few promotional trailers such as "Marley and Me" and the upcoming "Ice Age" film, but they can be easily skipped with the press of a menu button. Thankfully, there is a large wealth of other materials contained on the disc.
Two commentary tracks are included on the disc. The first Commentary by Director Peter Cattaneo and Actor Rainn Wilson is a relaxing commentary where the two candidly discuss the picture and their experiences during the making of the film. Cattaneo is British and anybody with a British accent instantly makes a commentary track more enjoyable. The two keep the discussion light, but informative and provide both scene specific information as well as some interesting tidbits of occurrences during the making of the picture. The second track features many of the younger actors from the film. The Commentary by Actors Josh Gad, Teddy Geiger, Emma Stone and Jason Sudeikis is crowded and hectic. This is another energetic commentary track and they constantly move onto tangents and get away from the film itself. However, they do provide a lot of insight into the making of the film.
There are a solid number of featurettes and vignettes. The MTV Panel (5:51) finds the three actors who served as the band members of A.D.D. briefly talking about the making of the film. It is quick and doesn't provide too much material. It provides footage from the MTV screening and is promotional in nature. Matt Gags (2:36) finds Josh Gad involved in some mildly humorous outtakes. The four included Pod Casts (11:05) are odd little shorts that were included on the web that are ‘Book Chat' segments with Rainn Wilson and guitar hero Slash. While promotional, these are pretty funny. I'm not so sure my girlfriend would appreciate the "Shakespeare was gay" jokes, but I thought these shorts were very good inclusions.
The collection of ten Deleted Scenes (16:11) provide some decent moments and while nothing in this set of cutting room floor inhabitants would have made the film any better, there are some tasty moments. I especially enjoyed the very first deleted scene with Fish and former Beatles drummer Pete Best. The previously mentioned "Matt Gags" isn't the only Gag Reel (9:49) footage. Rainn and company had a lot of fun making this film and that was apparent during this footage and I wish I could have Christina Applegate lick my cheek. The next gags are the Vesuvius Gags (4:08) and feature the film's director and three actors who portrayed Vesuvius clowning around. The entire four minutes consists of footage from the van escape sequence. Pete Best returns in the Pete Best Interview (6:44), the former drummer who was ousted from the Beatles for Ringo Starr and provides a little background on Best.
The Vesuvius PSA's (1:11) are nine very brief mock public service announcements for things like "Don't drive stupid" and to take banks seriously because they are all about money. These could have honestly been a little funnier, but I did chuckle some. Rainn Wilson Office Rocker (3:31) is just a man-love collage to "Office" star Wilson. This was far too much back patting for my tastes. Behind the Band (2:41) is a mock look at fictional band Vesuvius. It was short, but funny. Rock Tales (6:21) is a quick EPK featurette that doesn't dig too deep into anything, but tries to use the "everybody wants to be a rock star" to help promote the film. "Rock Beat with Fish Fishman" (2:31) is a brief mockumentary about Fish. The "I'm Not Bitter" Music Video (2:48) and Fox Movie Channel Presents in Character with the Rocker (2:16) are other brief promotional clips. Finally, The Music (11:15) is the only serious making of feature and looks at the actors and the work done to bring the ‘musical element' to the film.
Now that my review is written and I've had a little more time to think about Peter Cattaneo's film "The Rocker," I have come to the conclusion that this is passable entertainment. It has its funny moments and a little bit of heart, but the film is not original enough to be something I will be watch again anytime soon. There are simply better films out there and star Rainn Wilson is perhaps not the best person for this role and Cattaneo won't be earning another Best Director Oscar nomination for his work on this film. The Blu-ray release features a good looking picture that ranges from average to excellent and the sound mix isn't given enough room to drive home the film's musical numbers. Where this disc really excels is the large collection of short but entertaining featurettes. There are no Profile 1.1 or 2.0 features on this disc, but it still contains a nice offering of value added content. The bottom line on this release is that "The Rocker" is best looked at as a rental.