Yet another TV sitcom star makes a successful leap to the big screen, as The Office's Dwight Schrute (Rainn Wilson) shows he has what it takes to be a movie star in the delightful late August surprise The Rocker. As 41-year-old insurance guy Robert "Fish" Fishman, Wilson is the schlub of all schlubs, getting fired from his job and moving in with his sister (Jane Lynch), brother-in-law (Jeff Garlin), and nephew Matt (Josh Gad). Fish has never gotten over the fact that his dream of musical superstardom was shattered 20 years earlier, when he was unceremoniously kicked out of his struggling '80s band, Vesuvius. The band went on to great fame while he rotted away in boring desk jobs. Still, he is reluctant to try to reignite the dream when nerdy nephew Matt asks him to fill in as drummer in his own band, A.D.D. Even though other members Amelia (Emma Stone) and Curtis (Teddy Geiger) have their doubts, he joins the group and soon becomes a minor hit, taking their bland sound and giving it life. When a four-way webcam rehearsal session hits You Tube, featuring Fish drumming in the nude, A.D.D. becomes an Internet phenomenon and quickly finds itself on tour, leading to a major concert headlined by none other than Vesuvius. Sweet. Revenge always is.
This all could have been played broadly and one-note, but instead The Rocker becomes a completely believable and winning comedy, thanks to the comic brilliance of its across-the-board first-rate cast. This is led by Wilson, who makes Fish likable in a way that even Jack Black -- the obvious movie star choice for this type of role -- might have missed. It's crucial because we want to root for this guy. Who doesn't want a second chance at a big dream, especially when it looks like it is gone forever? Nicely complementing him are the young performers who make up A.D.D., particularly the very funny and appealing Stone -- who is also in this week's The House Bunny and previously made her mark in Superbad. Geiger is a perfect counterpoint as the misguided lead singer, and Gad is the recognizably awkward high school kid looking for an identity. Christina Applegate also shows up as Curtis' mom, who gets the eye of Fish in ways that make the band a little uncomfortable. Improv comedy greats Garlin and Lynch add their usual on-the-mark timing as Matt's parents. There's also nice work from Jason Sudekis as a none-too-reliable agent who sees a big payday in signing A.D.D. An added bonus is the band Vesuvius, which features hilarious stuff from Fred Armisen, Will Arnett, and Bradley Cooper -- looking like refugees from This Is Spinal Tap. Even pre-Ringo original Beatles drummer Pete Best turns up for a cameo and a nifty bit of ironic casting (this is not his story, however).
Director Peter Cattaneo shows his big 1997 hit, The Full Monty, was no fluke and continues to demonstrate his flair for sharp character comedy with the rockin' good Rocker.
Directed by Peter Cattaneo
Written by Maya Forbes, Wallace Woladarsky, story by Ryan Jaffe
Starring: Rainn Wilson, Christina Applegate, Josh Gad, Teddy Geiger, Emma Stone, Jeff Garlin, Jane Lynch, Jason Sudeikis.