One of the marks of a good film is its ability to take a standard formula audiences have seen a hundred times over and add a distinctive spin. The Rocker is a rock ‘n’ roll comedy in the tradition of That Thing You Do and School of Rock, and it does just that.
The film follows drummer Robert "Fish" Fishman (Rainn Wilson) in his quest for rock ‘n’ roll redemption after being kicked out of his band, Vesuvius, just as it went on to great success. Living in bitterness and regret for more than 20 years, Fishman’s life is a mess, and he eventually ends up jobless and living with his sister.
As fate would have it, his nephew’s high school rock band, A.D.D., finds itself in need of a replacement drummer on the eve of a prom night performance. Fishman steps in, seeing it as a chance to revive his music career, and through a series of various contrivances (not all that far fetched), Fishman and the band find themselves on the fast track to stardom.
While The Rocker is first and foremost a comedy, featuring its fair share of both physical slapstick and verbal wittiness, it transcends the genre by presenting a message: don’t allow a disappointing past to ruin a promising future.
Wilson is the anchor of the cast, carrying much of the film on his shoulders. Living very much in the shadow of his popular role on The Office, there are of course hints of Dwight Schrute in Fishman but for the most part Wilson does an admirable job of creating an almost entirely different persona.
His supporting cast is strong in its own right, with Christina Applegate leading the way as the single mother of one of the band members. She and Wilson share a good chemistry, and while not exactly a romance, their scenes together are always enjoyable.
The unexpected standouts of the cast are the junior members of A.D.D., Teddy Geiger, Emma Stone and Josh Gad. They hold their own with Wilson and do an excellent job of portraying realistic teenagers as opposed to popular Hollywood stereotypes.
Each has his or her own unique insecurities, and over the course of the film Fishman serves as a father figure in counseling them, albeit humorously, through their struggles. The bond he forms with Geiger’s character Curtis is particularly endearing.
The original soundtrack is quite memorable as well, with songs such as "I’m So Bitter" and "Bitter" tying into the overall themes of the film.
The climax of the film involves A.D.D. opening a show for Vesuvius, with Fishman being reunited with his old band mates. His handling of the situation is one to be emulated by us all, and the resolution to their rivalry is surprisingly satisfying.
While it may be overshadowed this summer season by superheroes and Brendan Fraser’s exploits into the unknown, The Rocker is a solid film worth checking out for not only laughs but a positive message of perseverance.