The offspring of Boogie Nights and Behind The Music, Rock Star offers a take on the dark side of superstardom that's every bit as generic as its title suggests. The disappointing results are actually pretty odd, considering the film's source material: the strange case of Judas Priest, the venerable British heavy-metal band that parted ways with longtime lead singer Rob Halford in the early '90s, then replaced him with Halford soundalike Tim "Ripper" Owens, the American lead singer of a Priest tribute band. The interesting points that could have been salvaged from the Owens story, the trials of becoming the frontman of a metal band during the metal-poor '90s not the least of them, seem to have been consciously avoided by writer John Stockwell and director Stephen Herek (Mr. Holland's Opus). Instead, the story gets transplanted back to the metal-rich '80s, a setting mostly evident in the opening-title card. Although it's a theatrical release with high-profile stars, Rock Star bears an uncanny resemblance to one of those flat, underdeveloped, VH1-produced "Movies That Rock." And, like those films, it never quite gets around to rocking. Mark Wahlberg plays the Owens surrogate, a Pittsburgh office drone who lives for the weekends, when he dons the leather-heavy costumery of Steel Dragon and leads a tribute band through note-perfect (in theory, at least) covers of their heroes' songs. When Wahlberg's perfectionism alienates him from his band members, he's left without this release, until an unexpected phone call invites him to audition as a replacement for Steel Dragon's departing lead singer. Soon, he's swept into the dizzying highs of rock-star life, which adversely affects his relationship with girlfriend Jennifer Aniston. At several junctures, Rock Star threatens to become interesting. For example, Wahlberg learns that, like Halford, his idolized predecessor is gay, but the discovery seems to produce little effect. Even with a supporting cast filled out by real-life metal second-stringers like Jason Bonham and Zakk Wylde, the film's knowledge of '80s metal life seems strangely secondhand. It doesn't help that Wahlberg, playing a role too close to his Boogie Nights part to be particularly effective, looks like a stuffed-animal version of Ozzy Osbourne, or that Herek's direction does nothing to hide the film's rough edges. In her first scene, Aniston—whose performance seems tailored to a better, or at least funnier, movie—simply wanders in unannounced, and after a certain point, Wahlberg starts driving around in the Batmobile with no explanation. When Aniston, bored of the metal life, leaves the road (for Seattle, no less) it's not hard to sympathize.
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