Rob “Fish” Fishman (Rainn Wilson) is the Pete Best of fictional hard rockers Vesuvius. After helping found the band he was dumped by the other three members before they hit multi-platinum. “It’s like winning the lottery,” says Rob’s brother-in-law, “and having the ticket ripped up in front of your face.”
While the band went on to enjoy the perks of superstardom—sex, wealth, drugs and more sex—Rob had to make due with a more mundane work-a-day existence.
Twenty years after his brush with rock and roll immortality and dozens of dead end jobs later he’s forced to move in with his sister just as the drummer of his nephew’s band quits before a gig. Rob’s long dormant desire to be a part of a band is rekindled when he sits in with them for a gig at the high school prom.
When an inappropriate video of the band goes viral on YouTube it looks as though Rob—now known as The Naked Drummer—may finally realize his dreams.
The Rocker, directed by Full Monty helmer Peter Cattaneo, struggles to maintain a constant tone. Veering from wild slapstick to heartfelt coming-of-age treacle, often in the same scene, The Rocker feels like two movies in one. Cattaneo establishes the feel of the movie just a notch above an After School Rock ‘N’ Roll Special, complete with a tiresome emo subplot about an abandoned teen that pines for a father he never knew.
Luckily the movie is relentlessly upbeat—even a song originally called Bitter is retitled I’m Not Bitter—if completely unrealistic.
Rainn Wilson—best known as Dwight Schrute of The Office—has the indignant oaf character down pat, but it’s just too bad the writing here isn’t nearly as sharp as it is on his sitcom. He’s fearless when it comes to the outrageous stuff—the abovementioned Naked Drummer and hilarious 80s hair band clothes—but because the character is such a rock ‘n’ roll cliché, when he drops the crazy stuff and gets sincere it rings hollow.
The Rocker has its moments—Howard Hesseman has the film’s best non sequitur with “There’s two things I don’t trust when they’re wireless, phones and marionettes”—but to see the real deal, a movie about actual rock ‘n’ roll frustration that hits all the right notes, check out the amazing documentary about real-life under-the-radar rockers Anvil: The Story of Anvil.