The Rocker (2008) artwork

The Rocker (2008)

8th March 2009

A failed rock bank drummer by the name of Robert "Fish" Fisherman gets a second shot at his 15 minutes of fame when the drummer position becomes available in his cousin's school band. Hardly the heights of rock superstardom, but it's a start.
Rainn Wilson, Christina Applegate, Teddy Geiger, Josh Gad, Emma Stone, Jeff Garlin, Jane Lynch, Jane Krakowski
Comedy, Music
1 Hour 38 Minutes

Unceremoniously ditched by eighties band Vesuvius as they reached the brink of fame, wannabe rock-god and band drummer Fish has spent the past twenty years of his life watching bitterly as Vesuvius became worldwide rock legends, sold millions of CDs and lived the rock and roll lifestyle that should have been his. Any mention of Vesuvius results in cold sweats, anger management courses and doses of violence. Unfortunately, his latest meaningless job sees him working at a call centre sat next to a big fan on the band. Naturally, it doesn't take long for music to crop up in their conversions - and not much longer after that before Fish is clearing out his desk. Again.

Fed up with Robert's latest job dismissal his girlfriend dumps him and throws him out of their apartment. With no where left to go, Fish asks his long-suffering sister for help and, along with a pile of old junk, he ends up sleeping in the loft at his sister's house along with his father in-law and rather

socially-inept nephew Matt. However, Matt has big plans to make himself popular with the girls by managing to arrange for his school rock band, A.D.D, to play at the prom. But his big plans for popularity are derailed when, thanks to some hash brownies at the school Spanish Club luncheon, a suspension and some serious amount of grounding from his mother, the band loses their drummer Jeremy.

However, all is not lost, as the household already contains a washed up, and rather bitter, drummer. Although Fish flatly dismisses Matt's pleas for help, he finally manages to convince Fish to sign up to the band. Unfortunately, Matt only manages to release a beast and Fish throws himself into the role in a desperate attempt to reclaim his rock-god throne - and with the help of YouTube he might just get his wish when a record company pays them a call. Sensing this is his chance for superstardom, Fish takes the band on the ride of their lives and, as their star begins to ascend, Fish realises he might get a second shot at the big time and a chance to exact the revenge he so desperately desires.

Given the genre of the film, the picture is surprisingly bright and colourful with a high level of detail (even more so since it was shot in HD), wide ranges of colours and above average bit-rate throughout. With an obviously limited budget, the picture is not going to be challenging any of the Hollywood big budget blockbusters but, after all, it's never going to be anything spectacular in the visual effects department either. Never the less it still manages to be quite impressive and exhibits no signs of artifacting or outlining.

For a music themed film, and even for one created on a tight budget, I would expect a soundtrack to match. Unfortunately, like the soft rock music scene it's copying, the 448 Kbps Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack doesn't really offer anything amazing. If anything, the entire soundtrack is totally flat and devoid of any real atmosphere - pretty criminal when you consider we've plenty of concert venues to visit along the way. Still, the dialogue is clear enough in the centre channel whilst the surround channels at least offer something in the way of surround effects.

When the static and silent (hello DVD production crew, but isn't this a music based film?) menu appears you start to wonder whether The Rocker is bare bones release which is destined to find its way to the bargain bucket at your local video store. However, dig a little deeper through the rather clumsy menus and you'll find a whole host of extras which will embarrass many a full priced Hollywood blockbuster DVD with not one, but two Audio Commentaries and a whole host of Featurettes and Deleted Scenes. Not bad for a rather under-the-radar and direct to DVD release.

First off are the two Audio Commentaries - which are different to each other as chalk is to cheese. The main commentary is the one from British Director Peter Cattaneo and actor Rainn Wilson. In it, Cattaneo provides the facts - most, if not all, are interesting to hear, whilst Wilson provides the jokes by the bucket load. It's obvious that the pair get on together and it's an interesting listen - especially for information on the production from the director. Meanwhile, over on the second commentary with actors Josh Gad, Teddy Geiger, Emma Stone and Jason Sudeikis, be prepared for your typical teenage nonsense and laughter. However, to be fair to them, they do provide additional information and it can actually be quite funny in places. Fortunately, both commentary tracks are subtitled so you can either watch the film with either sets of subtitles enabled, or even listen to their babblings with the main subtitles on.

Next up are the Delete Scenes. Running for sixteen minutes, and after listening to the audio commentary for some much need information, you'll learn that they've been cut for timing purposes (and the trimmed scenes involve either cut dialogue - some poor actors and ex-band members have lost a lot of screen time - or interconnecting or extended scenes which wouldn't have been missed in the grander scheme of things). The scenes can be played either in one go or individually selected from the menu. Although they all have a good image quality, they don't fill the screen and the green screen elements have not been completed. Next up is the four minutes worth of improvised Vesuvius Gags. Until you watch the film you won't really appreciate their meaning, but it's essentially an extended version of the opening scenes where Fish chases after the band's van.

Next up are a whole host of Featurettes - all of which include English subtitles. Running for three minutes, the Rainn Wilson Office Rocker doesn't offer anything about the film. Although the title of the featurette gives it away, it's essentially three minutes of the cast messing about and trying to get walk on parts for the US version of The Office. It does have its moments, but it's nothing really special. Next up is the two minute Behind the Band - Vesuvius. As with most big bands, there's always a fawning featurette - usually made by MTV - and this spoof featurette doesn't disappoint with band interviews and shock revelations. Also, keeping up with the spoofs, the three minute Rock Beat with Fish Fishman follows a similar theme.

The six minute Rock Tales featurette is one of the few in the collection which offers anything serious about the film. In it, the various cast members talk about their childhood dreams, inspirations and their desire to be in just about every band going - some of them weirder then others! The other "serious" featurette is the six minute interview with Pete Best - the ex-drummer from the Beatles with a story that is so in tune with the film. Whilst the interview is interesting, poor old Pete gets dropped yet again as he only really appears in the deleted scenes. The real PR fluff then kicks in with the two minute

Fox Movie Channel Presents... "In Character with The Rocker". The featurettes section is wrapped up with the one minute Vesuvius PSA's - a spoof, and rather pointless, set of public service announcements. Things are rounded off nicely with the music video "I'm not Bitter" - even if it is simply a montage of scenes from the film with music playing in the background. There's also a collection of trailers for other Twentieth Century Fox and Pathé releases of Max Payne, the Hollywood A-lister packed What Just Happened? on DVD and the extremely brief theatrical teaser trailer for Marley and Me. All in all, not a bad collection of extras at all - even if the menu system is dated and clunky (although I guess this large collection of extras will have eaten into the available capacity for such luxuries).

When I was sent this disc for review I thought I'd give it a quick spin and then write how boring it was and that it was hardly surprising it was a direct to DVD release in the UK. However, after watching the entire film in one sitting I was quite amazed at how enjoyable it was (even if I didn't have a clue who Rainn Wilson - of US version of The Office fame - was). Sure, it was cheesier than the most pungent of over matured Stilton and it was a rip off of School or Rock, or heaven forbid, some mutant form of High School Reunion, but enjoyable it was. The bizarre thing is that I couldn't quite put my finger on to why I enjoyed it - and it certainly can't have been for the awful soft rock and dreadful hairstyles that still haunt the American music scene. Perhaps there's still a little bit of Guitar Hero trying to get out of me...

Whilst the attempts at slapstick humour were a complete and utter failure - and so obvious it was ridiculous, the underlying feel good factor to the film was undeniably present. Sure, it was totally unoriginal and typical of the output from Hollywood these days, but the interesting and unexpectedly large collection of extras do make this package good value and worthy of either a rental or a straight purchase punt. You never know, you might be as surprised as I was - plus there's a nice rock band joke or two in there too.

  • Audio commentary by Director Peter Cattaneo and actor Rainn Wilson
  • Audio commentary by actors Josh Gad, Teddy Geiger, Emma Stone and Jason Sudeikis
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Vesuvius Gags
  • Rainn Wilson - Office Rocker
  • Behind the Band - Vesuvius
  • Rock Tales
  • Rock Beat with Fish Fishman
  • Fox Movie Channel Presents... "In Character with The Rocker"
  • Pete Best Interview
  • Vesuvius PSA's
  • I'm Not Bitter Music Video
  • Theatrical Trailers
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