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George Kraychyk/20th Century Fox

Acting out

Movies | Rainn Willson gets to be a grown-up child in The Rocker

Issue: "Two-ring circus," Sept. 6, 2008

In the grand tradition of grown men acting like children on film, Rainn Willson of The Office fame presents The Rocker (rated PG-13 for drug and sexual references, as well as language), the story of a has-been drummer who gets a second chance at stardom.

Wilson plays Robert "Fish" Fishman, an '80s metal drummer who finds himself kicked out of his band Vesuvius right before his hairspray-loving band mates hit the big time. As his former band climbs the charts and breaks into the echelons of superstardom, Fish takes a variety of dead end jobs and generally lists toward mediocrity.

But when Fish hits rock bottom and ends up living in his sister's attic, he inadvertently gets a second chance at realizing his dreams when his young nephew Matt (Josh Gad) needs a drummer for his band A.D.D.'s gig at the prom.

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As he is wont to do, Fish alternately amazes and disgusts the crowd with his drumming and ridiculous antics, and finds himself kicked out of yet another band. But his high-school band mates prove more forgiving than his '80s friends. They let him back in the band and A.D.D. takes off-thanks in part to a viral video of Fish playing drums naked. Soon the failed drummer (and failed adult) finds himself living his dream, playing drums on a national tour and signing with a major label. While A.D.D. hits the road to the big time, Fish learns some life lessons along the way.

There's not much new or surprising happening in The Rocker, but Wilson's cantankerous enthusiasm is catching. Watching Fish display his childish antics often relegates the cute teens in his band to the background, but they manage their parts with well-timed delivery and endearing maturity. Christina Applegate plays Fish's possible love interest-the single mother of one of his band mates-with similar dependability.

Though the film is mired in some childish fascinations, Wilson manages something that the other cast members of NBC's The Office have not yet been able to pull off on the big screen-the ability to make something old look new again.


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