Donald Clarke

Whingeing about cinema and real life since 2009

Is Rock of Ages the new Mamma Mia!?

Of all the weird hits that confused studios in recent decades, Mamma Mia! remains the most perplexing. Nobody saw it coming. The show had been a hit in the West End. Big deal. Phantom of the Opera was the biggest …

Thu, Jun 7, 2012, 22:24

   
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Of all the weird hits that confused studios in recent decades, Mamma Mia! remains the most perplexing. Nobody saw it coming. The show had been a hit in the West End. Big deal. Phantom of the Opera was the biggest theatrical smash of all time, but the movie version died a death. The main selling point of Mamma Mia! was familiarity. Phantom may have been huge, but the average person would have trouble naming more than one number from the stupid thing. Mamma Mia! triumphed because audiences knew the words to every Abba hit. They could, without assistance from singalong bouncing balls, warble to the tunes while bonding as if no bonding opportunities would ever again present themselves.

So, the search was on for another nostalgia fest featuring tunes with big choruses. Rock of Ages, a big hit on Broadway, solid in the West End, cynically stirred the familiar ingredients into the correctly sized pot. The theme is 1980s poodle rock. Tunes featured include: Keep on Loving You, The Final Countdown and Can’t Fight This Feeling. You know — all the songs you loathed first time around.

The film version comes our way next week. Russell Brand, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Tom Cruise are all along for the ride. What is being tested here is the worth of template-based film-making. Is it possible to extract a pattern from a hit and use that formula to make another smash? Hollywood has failed in this endeavour time and time again. But there may be something in the current effort. Folk enjoy going to the movies in groups and bellowing along together. Moreover, we are now reaching the point at which the 1980s seem ripe for nostalgic reinvention.

Perhaps you really can’t fight the feeling. Anyway, enjoy the trailer (if you’re able).