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Unclean! Unclean!

Don't Subject Yourself To This Soulless Piffle

Not Even a Rack of Rototoms Can Make Rainn Wilson Funny Here.

The Rocker

Director:Peter Cattaneo
Cast:Rainn Wilson, Teddy Geiger, Emma Stone, Jane Lynch
Release Date:2008

By Violet LeVoit | Posted 8/20/2008

Before the show starts, metal-never-dies drummer Fish (Rainn Wilson) has a little ritual: He gags up a mouthful of vomit into his hand, then eases the chunky puddle into the front pocket of his tourniquet-tight jeans. It's his good-luck charm. "I'm rocking a pocket of puke," he explains. If this is funny to you, you will like The Rocker, and an entire stadium full of movie critics desperately waving their arms in warning will be powerless to prevent you from seeing this nightmare. Don't blame us when you're up to your neck in this sinkhole. We tried to stop you.

For the gluttons for punishment out there, here's the plot. Fish once played drums in a mid-'80s hair metal band Vesuvius (think Poison, but with pudgier musicians). When its manager dangled a sweet major-label deal in front of them, they ditched Fish and went on to mega-platinum fame. Now Fish is fired from his telemarketer job, so he and his sad little ponytail have to go live with his sister (Jane Lynch) and her family. There, in the garage, his nephew Matt (Josh Gad) and friends Amelia (Emma Stone) and Curtis (alleged teen-pop sensation Teddy Geiger) don't know what to do: Their sappy emo-lite band A.D.D. needs a drummer, pronto. Where, oh where, could they ever find someone who can totally rock the house?

How could this movie be so bad? Director Peter Cattaneo counts the crowd-pleaser The Full Monty among his credits. There's a lot of talented people in the cast, from veterans like Lynch (from multiple Christopher Guest mockumentaries like Best in Show), Will Arnett (Arrested Development), and Jeff Garlin (Curb Your Enthusiasm), to newcomers like Gad, whose wispy, timorous delivery polishes unremarkable dialogue into acceptable one-liners. Even Christina Applegate as Fish's unlikely love interest (in your dreams, buddy) succeeds on whatever modest level it needs to. And Wilson is usually a talented guy, as evinced by his regular gig as Dwight on The Office, where his pitch-perfect combination of insecurity and creepiness forms the perfect wasabi counterpoint to the unctuousness of co-star Steve Carell.

Someone somewhere must have decided this was Wilson's star-making vehicle, the Anchorman or The 40-Year-Old Virgin to which he could attach his career for a Chutes and Ladders-style jaunt up to A-list fame. Maybe that person didn't realize that Will Ferrell and Carell have an innate charisma that, no matter how sleazy or pathetic their character, allows them to still command an audience's adoration. Wilson, on the other hand, is unadorable and makes no effort to earn anyone's affection. Whether he's grimacing his usual Boston-terrier-in-a-G-force-experiment crazy face, or soaking people in sweat and spilled beer, or sitting greasy, stubbly, and naked on a drum stool while shoveling wormy lo mein into his mouth, he's leaning on revulsion, not empathy, as a way to get laughs--a strategy that proves to be incredibly alienating and incredibly disgusting.

Typically, the worse the movie, the more fun it is to review. There's something about having two hours of one's life forcibly squandered that really underscores the sadomasochistic glee in dishing the insult right back. But there's no joy in eviscerating this movie. Criticizing its ugliness and vapidity feels as unsporting as shooting a deer that's already been hit by a car. There's no vitality or spirit in The Rocker. It just trudges forward by reflex, like a decapitated cockroach that will eventually starve to death but for now just keeps on twitching. Every once in a while there's a faint flutter of life, like when a record executive heaps praise on A.D.D.'s new single by blurting, "That song made John Lennon roll over in his grave--to hide the massive boner it gave him." In retrospect, maybe that wasn't a flutter of life. But it was a high point of the movie, which should give you an idea of the sunken and scorched wasteland its tiny pimple of a summit punctuates.

This %uFFFDberfiasco even goes out on a down note, when the end credits proudly unveil a cameo you kinda-sorta recognized by trumpeting "And starring Pete Best as himself." After 40-some years in the public consciousness, this deep-burning tire dump fire of a movie is Pete Best's feature-film debut? Poor guy really can't catch a break.

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