Rock Star (2001)

Rating: **
Review Date: 8/25/03
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Jennifer Aniston, cameos by Jeff Pilson, Zakk Wilde, Jason Bonham, Blas Elias, Neil Zlozower

Loosely and unofficially based on the story of Judas Priest frontman Ripper Owens, "Rock Star" follows the rise and fall of Chris Cole (Mark Wahlberg) as a lead singer in a local heavy metal tribute band, to a full blown international rock star. After having a falling out with their vocalist, popular heavy metal band Steel Dragon recruits Chris as their new singer due to his excellent impersonation of their previous singer. Cole's long suffering girlfriend Emily (beautiful Jennifer Aniston) offers him love and support until the rock and roll lifestyle consumes and ruins Chris, and she's forced to leave him. Surprisingly, it has a somewhat happy ending.

This is one of those nostalgia films aimed at a very specific demographic - namely anyone who grew up as a teenager in the 1980's and listened to rock and roll music. As such, the best treat the film has to offer (other than the exceedingly hot Jennifer Aniston) is its nostalgic heavy metal soundtrack and the cameos of numerous musicians from the era (Jeff Pilson, Zakk Wilde, Jason Bonham, Blas Elias, and probably others). Mark Wahlberg does a respectable job with the role of Chris Cole and captures a lot of the essence of the music of the time, which is even more impressive given his hip-hop background. Jennifer Aniston is outstanding as Emily and is VERY attractive as a rocker chick. Wow. All of the band guys play their roles to perfection, with a mixture of arrogance, professionalism, irresponsibility, cynicism, and hedonistic excess. The film is overly cynical and makes great efforts to depict the ugly side of the music industry and how fame can corrupt and destroy even the purest and noblest of hearts. There's a reason why they call it "show business" and not "show art." The film is also a bitter and cynical tale about chasing a dream, only to discover that the dream is actually a nightmare. And yet, as depressing as the whole thing is, the film doesn't dwell on the emotional turmoil of the characters, and tends to focus on sensationalism instead. As such, the film seems emotionally shallow, but that keeps it from being completely dark and hopeless.

The controversy surrounding the film is sort of interesting, since Judas Priest initially had a lot of input in the film and it was originally going to be called "Metal Gods" (a track from their "British Steel" album). Apparently, they pulled out their support and any connection to the film as a result of disagreements over the script and embellished fabrications of the actual events that the story is based on. Who knows for sure?