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THE ROCKER
Blu-ray Edition

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Rainn Wilson, Christina Applegate, Teddy Geiger, Josh Gad, Emma Stone, Jason Sudeikis, Will Arnett, Howard Hesseman
Director:  Peter Cattaneo
Audio:  DTS HD 5.1
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio:  20th Century Fox
Features:  See Review
Length:  102 Minutes
Release Date:  January 27, 2009

“Sorry Uncle Rob…were we playing too loud?”

“Too loud is not in my vocabulary.”

Film ***

The Rocker was a surprise to me.  I was prepared not to like it, imagining it to be just another Judd Apatow styled gross-out comedy, or a lame goofball movie in the vein of Date Movie, or at best, a rip-off of This is Spinal Tap.  I wasn’t expecting such a sweet, loveable look at life, music, and chasing your dream.

It was loosely based on the experience of Pete Best, who once sat in the drummer’s chair for The Beatles but lost his job JUST before the Fab Four became the biggest rock band in the history of the world.  What must it have been like, knowing your whole life what could have been, and really having no place to escape from what you missed out on?

Rainn Wilson plays Robert ‘Fish’ Fishman, and as the movie opens, he’s playing drums for Vesuvius, an 80s hair band just about to hit the big time (check out Will Arnett as the lead singer!).  But the record label wants to replace Fish with an executive’s son in order to clinch the deal. 

Twenty years later, Fish is barely getting through life, while Vesuvius has become a monster success.  He can’t get away from it, and his inability to cope costs him his job, his girl, and his home, leading him to move into his sister’s attic.

His nephew Matt (Gad) plays keyboards in a band called ADD, along with brooding but talented singer and songwriter Curtis (Geiger) and girl bass player Amelia (Stone).  They have a shot to play their school prom, but their drummer gets grounded…bummer.

Desperate to do the show, they reluctantly agree to ask Fish to sit in.  It doesn’t go as well as they would hope, but Fish senses some real talent with the kids, and starts trying to land them a real gig.  Soon, against the better judgments of the parents, the band gets to do a mini-tour, with Fish as the only adult to supervise.  Not a good choice; Fish is ready to live the rock dream that’s been denied him for so long, while his mates aren’t even old enough to drink.

It’s a simple tale, but one filled with humor and a surprising amount of warmth.  Fish getting a chance to finally be the rocker he was meant to be is one aspect, but the growing chemistry with him and the kids is also a wonderful touch.  He shows them possibilities of success they never dreamed of, and they teach him that you’re never too old to follow that elusive dream.

There are problems here and there, of course, and it all proceeds neatly toward the happy endings we want for them all, but how can you complain?  This movie has a winning spirit, and celebrates the positive power of music in inspiring ways, even when Fish seems to be falling apart from the damage he sometimes inflicts on himself. 

Rainn Wilson seems to be channeling Jack Black’s comic and unpredictable energy, and actually learned to play drums for the role.  Teddy Geiger already sang and played guitar well, and the whole group really delivers on the illusion of a rock band coming to life, thanks to some good tunes and the sense of fun they project.

I guess the message, if there is one, might be that sometimes our dreams get put on hold for the chance to do even greater things.  The Rocker made me laugh, smile, and just plain feel good.

BONUS TRIVIA:  The real Pete Best has a Cameo!

Video ****

This is an absolutely stellar Blu-ray presentation from Fox.  The high definition transfer delivers amazing contrast and clarity, from the brightly lit stage shows to the nighttime scenes.  One growing split-screen gag was amazing…the screen kept splitting, and splitting, and splitting until the images were microscopic…and yet still crystal clear and detailed in 1080p.  Nicely done!

Audio ****

You’d expect a movie called The Rocker to rock, and this uncompressed DTS soundtrack does just that.  Wow.  Plenty of great songs and concert sequences give this audio plenty of dynamic range and bass, with tasteful uses of the surrounds throughout while keeping dialogue nicely balanced against all of it.

Features ****

This Blu-ray disc is loaded!  There are two commentary tracks; one from Rainn Wilson and director Peter Cattaneo, and one by the kids in the band and Jason Sudeikis, who has a hilarious turn as the manager.  There are deleted scenes, a gag reel, PSAs and gags from Vesuvius and Matt, five production featurettes, a very nice interview with Pete Best, a music video, a Fox Movie Channel special, and a bonus digital copy disc.

Summary:

I just kind of wanted to reach out and give The Rocker a big hug.  From someone who still loves his guitar and rock and roll dreams, this comic fantasy was a nice reminder that we may get older, but the dreamer inside us always stays young.

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