Rainn Wilson's The Rocker opens Cinevegas

Music Features Rainn Wilson
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the rocker - wilson + hopper.jpg[L-R] Rainn Wilson and Dennis Hopper. Photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images for CineVegas.

The 10th annual Cinevegas Film Festival kicked off on Thursday with a screening of The Rocker starring Rainn Wilson and directed by Oscar-nominee Peter Cattaneo (The Full Monty).  The director and star, along with costars Jane Lynch, Fred Armisen, Emma Stone, and Lonny Ross (30 Rock), were in attendance, as was Dennis Hopper (who serves as chairman of the festival's creative advisory board).

One of the nice things about the Cinevegas festival is that it can attract a wide range of talent to the festival (partially due to its proximity to Los Angeles), where they can interact with attendees in a relatively low-key manner.  The screenings are housed inside a multiplex in a "tiny" corner of the mammoth Palms casino. Given the constant craziness of the casino and the city in general, stars barely add to the spectacle.  Even when the spectacle is played up, as in Wilson's arrival for the screening (watch video).

As for the film itself, the results are mixed.  I'd expected worse, based on comments from those who'd seen press previews as well as the shifting release date (seldom a good sign).  However, given the director and cast (which also includes Christina Applegate and, in smaller roles, Demetri Martin, Aziz Ansari, and Will Arnett), I'd hoped for more. (Read Paste's review of The Rocker here.)

In the movie, Fish (Wilson) is kicked out of metal hair-band Vesuvius right as they get their big break and shoot to superstardom.  After a subsequent 20 years unsuccessfully trying to lead a corporate life, he's asked to fill-in for his nephew's band who desperately needs a drummer for a performance at their high school prom.  From there, the plot proceeds on a surprisingly Disney-esque trajectory of predictability and unbelievability.  Wilson, as the 40-something who refuses to grow-up, provides energy and rock 'n' roll wisdom (but not life wisdom) to the band, who shoots to instant stardom thanks to a youtube video of a virtual practice session where Wilson, apparently oblivious to the fact that his webcam captures audio and video, performs in the buff.  This leads to a signing and a finale with Vesuvious that is eye-rolling.

There are plenty of laughs, the plot is executed professionally enough, and I don't want those 102 minutes of my life back.  But it's still ultimately disappointing.  One of the big problems with the film is that it can't decide if it wants to be edgy or family friendly.  And, as a consequence, it'd doesn't quite succeed at either.  It's hard to be family friendly with grown-up sexual innuendo and plenty of rock-cliched alcohol excess, not to mention five minutes of on-screen time for Rainn Wilson's bare ass.  And any cleverness and edginess it does have is severely undermined by the conventional plot.

Watch the trailer:

More images from the festival:

rocker cast - cinevegas.jpg