Journey’s deathless 1981 air-guitar anthem ‘Don’t Stop Believin’’ has been working overtime lately. Fresh from soundtracking the finale of ‘The Sopranos’ and introducing the perky ‘Glee’ choristers, it’s back to serve as the keynote theme of this delightfully daft jukebox musical, drawn from the hit Broadway and West End show – and now conceived by choreographer-director Adam Shankman as a more hirsute adaptation of ‘Burlesque’.
The year is 1987. Sparkly-eyed poppets Sherrie (Julianne Hough) and Drew (Diego Boneta) are a smalltown girl and a city boy who fall in love amid the stench of wine and cheap perfume in The Bourbon Room, a fictional Sunset Strip rock tavern. Both harbour dreams of music stardom, which are somehow undampened by the walking cautionary tale that is Tom Cruise’s faded hair-metal god Stacee Jaxx – think David Lee Roth with a waxed chest. He’s an ego-crazed alcoholic whose solo shows represent a final financial lifeline to club owner Alec Baldwin, who’s facing the threat of closure from a shrill conservative harpy (Catherine Zeta-Jones) possibly modelled on Tipper Gore.
This is more plot than you strictly need to enjoy a film whose every scene is tenuously built around an infectious singalong of a 1980s soft-rock classic, from ‘Every Rose Has Its Thorn’ to ‘Wanted Dead or Alive’. It’s ‘Glee’-filtered nostalgia, to be sure, and rocks about as hard as the Royal Variety Show, but as with Shankman’s knowingly naff ‘Hairspray’, the sheer performance gusto on display proves thoroughly winning. Cruise, wickedly cast as a mystic loon, is having more fun than he’s permitted himself in years, while everyone from Zeta-Jones to Mary J Blige to Russell Brand gets at least one moment to kick it on this most deliciously starry of karaoke stages.