The Rocker is a flawed but enjoyable film about four adolescents, one of whom happens to be in his forties, who are having a difficult time transitioning to adulthood in a world that adores them not for their personalities but rather for their celebrity. It is not the sadistic, hard-hitting parody of rock bands and groupies that some audiences might crave. The movie instead establishes a sweet tone derived from the sympathetic performances, leading to an unexpectedly moving conclusion.
Rainn Wilson plays Robert “Fish” Fishman, a man who has been reeling ever since he was replaced as the drummer by the rock band Vesuvius, who have since become multi-platinum artists. Fish still resides in Cleveland, the home of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, to painfully remind himself how close he came to greatness.
After losing his job because of his continuous rage surrounding the mentioning of Vesuvius, he “mutually” breaks up with his girlfriend and tells her to leave, forgetting the important fact that this is her apartment. This forces Fish to move in with his sister, who sees him as a loser for never outliving his childish fantasies, and brother-in-law, whose admiration for Fish stems from never being able to live the rock star dream himself.
Fish is soon recruited by his nephew’s (Josh Gad) band as their new drummer to play at the prom after the original one was suspended from school. The other members are the female guitarist (Emma Stone) who feels that her constant oppression prevents her from ever smiling and the tortured lead singer (Teddy Geiger) whose father’s abandonment still affects the way he leads his life and, consequentially, the songs he writes.
The band catches a big break after a practice session of theirs ends up being a sensation on the internet, causing a record company to approach them about a contract and tour. The parents are startled at the proposition of sending their children off with a grown man until a face-to-face meeting makes them to understand that Fish is the most immature out of the four. He means no harm but his irresponsibility, along with issues plaguing all bands, causes various events to take place that make up the bulk of the story.
Rainn Wilson, most notable as Dwight on “The Office,” might appear like he is simply playing another eccentric character with social deficiencies, but the range he illustrates here is much broader with closer examination of each character. Dwight is a person who has an extreme sense of right and wrong while Fish simply does not care, which is shown by the smirk he gathers after the entire band is arrested. One thing that is certain is Wilson will do anything for a role, even if that means drumming naked while sweating incessantly.
Teddy Geiger, who is an actual singer that has produced a CD, gives the most nuanced performance in the film as the passionate lead singer whose pain from his father’s departure can be seen through the way he profoundly feels every word he sings. He is a true talent who once guest starred on an episode of the hidden television gem “Love Monkey,” which must have given the casting director the confidence that he could handle this significant of a role. Emma Stone combines the sweetness and innocence she exhibited in Superbad with the naivet of a teenager still attempting to finish growing up. They are at the age where physical affection is much easier to attain than a true emotional connection because of the immaturity that prevents them from being vulnerable.
The director, Peter Cattaneo, does a fine job of involving the audience in a way so that the characters’ fates matter. The Rocker is far from perfect because it meanders along at times and lacks the hysterically funny moments any comedy covets. The redeeming feature of the movie is that I cared about the characters and, with the cynicism that embroils today’s cinema, that is somewhat of a rarity.