As VH1's Behind the Music upgraded the status of hair bands like Def Leppard and Bon Jovi from public embarrassment to source of nostalgia, the appetite grew for a movie like Rock Star. Director Stephen Herek doesn't disappoint in this first mainstream attempt to cast pop metal as a modern period piece, using equal parts Almost Famous, A Star Is Born, and This Is Spinal Tap for a likable, if superficial brew. Herek proves himself as much a fan of rock bravura as a critic of its shallowness, perfectly capturing trademark elements like the overblown sets and the interchangeable lead singers. Mark Wahlberg, playing another naif run through the glamorous wringer in a decade-defining epic (see Boogie Nights), has the natural swagger to pull off the role effortlessly -- even if his own musical roots were in popular hip-hop, a fact teased during the closing credits. Jennifer Aniston is a little too self-aware to seem like a real rock chick, but she displays far greater subtlety than one would expect from a television actress, elevating the role above obviousness. Most of the supporting performances, including a superlative Timothy Spall, also reflect enough nuance to avoid cliché. The film offers all the formulaic moments one would expect, but that doesn't make it any less fun to see hotel furniture glued to the ceiling and other apocryphal moments yanked from rock biographies. The fact that Steel Dragons is comprised of real musicians from that era, composing and performing new and utterly believable anthems, adds to the authenticity. The end shift to Seattle even previews the 1990s in a way that's simultaneously earnest and tongue-in-cheek -- very much like these metal gods themselves.
by Derek Armstrong review