EmptyOpens Aug. 20 (20th Century Fox)
The off-kilter comic rhythms of Rainn Wilson are exploited to excellent effect in "The Rocker," a derivative rock satire that is far more enjoyable than one would have a right to expect. This tale of a middle-aged drummer getting a second chance at stardom overcomes its essential familiarity thanks to a frequently witty script, grounded direction (by Peter Cattaneo, of "Full Monty" fame) and an engaging turn by its star that proves him more than capable of carrying a comedy feature.
The title character is Robert "Fish" Fishman, who was unceremoniously dumped by his big-haired '80s heavy metal band Vesuvius (hilariously embodied by Will Arnett, Fred Armisen and Bradley Cooper) just as they were on the verge of hitting the big time. Twenty years later and embittered and unemployed, he's reduced to living with his sister and her family. But the still-passionate rocker finds himself once more pounding the skins when he's recruited as an emergency replacement by a band to which his nerdy nephew Matt (Josh Gad) belongs.
Hitting the road with the group, dubbed A.D.D., Fish finds that his old-fashioned hell-raising ways -- he's fond of rehearsing naked, among other things --ironically conflicts with the more staid habits of his much younger bandmates, who also include sensitive lead singer Curtis (real-life pop singer Teddy Geiger) and goth-chick bassist Amelia (Emma Stone). He also finds unexpected romantic sparks with Curtis' protective mom (an appealing Christina Applegate), who is serving as a chaperone for their tour. Needless to say, by the film's conclusion the different generations of rockers have reached a level of mutual understanding and respect.
Although reminiscent of too many similarly themed efforts ("School of Rock" and "This Is Spinal Tap," among others), "The Rocker" nonetheless manages to find an amusing groove. Myra Forbes and Wallace Wolodarksy's screenplay includes numerous sly comic touches -- somehow, the Vesuvius band members became British over the years --and such supporting players as Jason Sudeikis (as a sleazy record exec), Jeff Garlin and Jane Lynch deliver fun turns.
A Fox Atomic presentation
A 21 Laps production, in association with Dune Entertainment III
CAST: Rainn Wilson, Christina Applegate, Josh Gad, Teddy Geiger, Emma Stone, Jeff Garlin, Jason Sedeikis, Jane Lynch
Director: Peter Cattaneo
Screenwriters: Maya Forbes, Wallace Wolodarksy
Producers: Shawn Levy, Tom McNulty
Co-producer: Lyn Lucibello-Brancatella
Director of photography: Anthony B. Richmond
Production designer: Brandt Gordon
Music: Chad Fischer
Costume designer: Christopher Hargadon
Editor: George Folsey Jr.
Rated PG-13, 102 min.