Headbangers’ Bawl: What the Critics Are Saying About Tom Cruise in ‘Rock of Ages’

Tom Cruise / Photo by Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

Rock of Ages, Broadway’s tribute to the hair-metal and AOR eras, arrives on the big screen today. And while the musical spends most of its time focusing on characters played by Diego Boneta, Julianne Hough, Russell Brand and others, whose problems are illustrated in songs like Night Ranger’s “Sister Christian,” Foreigner’s “Juke Box Hero” and Twisted Sister’s “I Wanna Rock,” the movie’s real draw is the portrayal of Stacee Jaxx, an egotistical, flamboyant rock star, by one Tom Cruise.

Normally, when we think of the union of Tom Cruise and music, we picture him sliding across the floor in his socks and tighty-whities lip-syncing to Bob Seger. So the idea of him going full Axl Rose — or Steve Perry as his haircut in the flick might suggest — seems a bit out there, even for the man who did this and this, we decided to consult the critics, including Def Leppard singer Joe Elliott, whose “Pour Some Sugar on Me” he sings in the movie. Here are the most praising, damning and hilarious reviews of Tom Cruise’s performance we found:

“I thought, Wow, if he’s gotten that good [at singing] in four or five months, that’s much better than most of these people on these talent shows.” —Def Leppard’s Joe Elliott

“The role quickly becomes a retread of the one he played in Magnolia, only in a different costume… There’s nothing sexy about him, unless you find studied posturing erotic.” — Movieline

“When Cruise and [actress Malin] Akerman have lurid (but still PG-13) sex atop an air-hockey table while singing Foreigner’s ‘I Want to Know What Love Is,’ Cruise’s expressions of erotic anguish are like something out of Steve McQueen’s sex-addiction drama Shame, with a hint of tragic drag queen thrown in.” — Slate

“Cruise at least seems to be enjoying himself, but the filmmakers could have saved themselves a lot of money by hiring Val Kilmer simply to recreate his performance in The Doors.” — AV Club

“Cruise plays Stacee in a style noticeably close to his turn as Lestat in Interview With the Vampire (who coincidentally wanted to be a rock star). Cruise’s performance eclipses everything else in Rock of Ages; plus the dude can flat-out sing.” — Tampa Bay Times

“[Cruise’s performance is] like watching Lance Armstrong’s impersonation of Jim Morrison.” — Boston Globe

“Cruise’s Jaxx is all attitude and no pacing; 20 minutes of this overlong jape could’ve been excised simply by cutting each of Cruise’s nonverbal windups or reaction shots in half.” — Chicago Tribune

“Every time Cruise appears on screen the film grinds to a halt, time stretches precariously before you, and your mind begins to wander… Rock’n’roll may be self-indulgent, but not this self-indulgent.” — The Miami Herald

“No matter how you feel about Guns N’ Roses, Tom Cruise as a bandanna-headed Axl Rose type will hit you as the purest bit of genius in the man’s entire film career.” — San Francisco Chronicle

“He’s phenomenal. He gets all the moves right — the sound, too (check him out on Bon Jovi’s ‘Wanted Dead or Alive’). Better yet, he finds the heart that still beats inside the bare chest of this sex, drugs and rock & roll casualty. In a movie that only wants to rock you, Cruise plays it for keeps.” — Rolling Stone

“Cruise’s portrayal of Stacee Jaxx may be part Axel [sic] Rose, part Bret Michaels, but he definitely transforms himself into a 1980’s Rock God… He nails subtle details like his incoherent interviews, the loneliness on the road, semi-drunken lean to his walk, random pets, and constant gibberish. He carries himself like he could’ve been a rock star in another life.” — Seattle PI

“You’ve never seen Cruise like this — stoned, sexy, topless, reckless — and his swing-for-the-fences performance is so on target it’s actually Oscar-worthy.” — Box Office

“Cruise owns Rock of Ages… Ladies and gents, meet Stacee Jaxx, God of Rock.” — CNN


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