The Rocker (2008)

Genres - Comedy  |   Sub-Genres - Musical Comedy, Showbiz Comedy  |   Release Date - Aug 20, 2008 (USA)  |   Run Time - 102 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - PG13
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There's a high probability that studios keep piles of generic comedy scripts like The Rocker sitting around in the vaults. They probably lie in stacks, divided up based on type, each pile with a Post-it note on top baring a hopeful casting suggestion; the stickie on the Sports Comedies says "Will Ferrell," the note on the Cringe Comedies says "Ben Stiller," and while the one on the Rock Comedies probably says "Jack Black," fortunately for us in this hypothetical scenario, Mr. Black's agent noticed a tad too much similarity between The Rocker and Black's 2003 hit School of Rock, so this film was handed down to Office vet Rainn Wilson -- who turns this fun, simple story into something fresh.

That isn't to say that the uncomplicated plot doesn't remain totally uncomplicated (or at least vaguely similar to School of Rock), it just works well that way. Wilson plays "Fish," a drummer booted from his '80s hair-metal band Vesuvius on the verge of their big break. He henceforth plows straight through to middle age on a 20-year diet of crappy day jobs, until he gets an unlikely second chance at stardom by joining his teenage cousin's high-school band ADD -- which lands a record deal based on a viral video of Fish rehearsing naked. What ensues is a basic fish-out-of-water story (no pun intended) built around a super-bombastic lead, but unlike many of Hollywood's other Post-it-worthy comedians, Wilson hasn't worked this schtick into the ground. On the contrary, his only ubiquitous character is the righteous and nerdy Dwight from the hit series The Office, and Fish is just about Dwight's complete opposite -- dressing up in red leather pants and partying until his fourtysomething knees give out. Wilson's take on the classic Terrifyingly Enthusiastic character type that so many comedians have made their careers on is endlessly endearing, and even his young co-stars pull off their pubescent, sometimes-whiney roles (almost) without ever crossing the line into grating angst.

In fact, the movie is full of cheesy "just be yourself" moments where the kids briefly learn a lesson about kissing or self-esteem or whatever, but the sappy stuff never takes a front seat to the hilarious and often-insane humor. That's what you get when it's become the standard for all available members of the SNL/30 Rock/Apatow in-crowds to show up and play all the minor roles in a comedy starring anyone vaguely connected to their clique. Jason Sudeikis is particularly awesome in this regard, playing the band's sleazy manager, though Will Arnett turns in an equally memorable performance as the spandexed, eyelinered frontman for Fish's old hair-metal band -- this is probably the role he was born to play.

Of course, even with all it has going for it, the movie still has its flaws. It isn't exactly edited perfectly, and the story plays out a little clumsily as a result, leaving it smattered with events that don't end up going anywhere and subplots that don't end up panning out. But this isn't really the kind of movie where plot matters that much anyway. It's good for laughs, and it proves that Rainn Wilson can earn them -- in or out of the Office.