“The Rocker” is about a dumped musician attempting a comeback with a band composed of little kids, and hoping in the process to wreak vengeance on the now-successful group that discarded him. In other words, the movie is a shameless rip of “School of Rock.” All that’s missing is the idiosyncratic direction of Richard Linklater, a smart, un-cliched script by Mike White and, of course, Jack Black in the lead role.
Unfortunately, those elements are, as I say, missing. What we have instead is Rainn Wilson playing an over-the-hill ’80s hair-metal drummer called Fish, who was booted from his band, Vesuvius (think Spinal Tap, naturally), 20 years ago, and has been a miserable office drone ever since. When Fish discovers that his nephew, Matt (Josh Gad), has formed a group with some fellow high school students and that they’re in need of a drummer, he, too, feels a comeback coming on.
Does Fish whip the kids into musical shape? Does he lead them to stardom? Are the usual quirky adventures had along the way? Need you ask? The movie is sweet and unassuming, and the teen band members — huggy-bear keyboardist Gad, bassist-grrl Emma Stone and lightly brooding frontman Teddy Geiger (an actual musician making his feature-film debut) — are an agreeable team. But the picture has a plodding, TV-style blandness, and watching it is like treading yogurt.
Wilson, still best-known for his work in “The Office,” does what he can, but he’s prone to mugging, and here, at least, lacks star wattage. And although he shares with Jack Black a penchant for parading his proudly unbuff body, he’s not especially funny doing it (maybe because Black and Will Ferrell have already done it to death), and in any case, he lacks Black’s mad comic energy. This is the movie’s crucial shortcoming — or would have been, had “The Rocker” had any pressing reason to be made in the first place.
Check out everything we’ve got on “The Rocker.”
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