Heavy metal hero

Mark Wahlberg plays heavy metal hero at the multiplex

Rock Star
Starring Mark Wahlberg and Jennifer Anniston. Directed by Stephen Herek.
Rated 3.0 One of Rock Star‘s working titles was Metal God. The former is blandly generic, and the latter, the discarded one, would have been perfect had not the film been so intent on relegating its fiercest ironies to the background and insider-oriented local color. Either way, the new Mark Wahlberg film, directed by Stephen Herek, is a backstage musical, sometimes sappy and rather bereft of much of the heaviness and mettle its subject cries out for.

But Wahlberg, the urban Huck Finn of younger movie stars currently, is an amiable delight throughout, even though the script runs thin at times. He plays a singer in a tribute band who gets a gig singing for the heavy-metal band he’s been worshipping and imitating. He’s a wide-eyed 20-something whose smart and adoring girlfriend (Jennifer Anniston) is also his manager.

The relationship between Chris (Wahlberg) and Emily (Anniston) is another of the film’s charms, but it’s also a little on the far side of too-good-to-be-true. Indeed, the entire film dissipates its best stuff in a somewhat crude mélange of unlikely stretches. Gritty insider stuff on the music business keeps company with a sweet, against-the-grain love story; and a giddily sardonic period piece somehow slides into a celebration of heavy metal as music the whole family, including mom and dad, can enjoy.

Wahlberg’s ordinary-guy charm combines nicely with the rock-star-like chutzpah and charisma that have been a part of all his movie performances, musical or not. Timothy Spall is very good as the doggedly hedonistic road manager of the band, but he’s a very different animal from the real-life pudgy Brit roadies whom he ostensibly resembles. Anniston brings credibility and strength to a role that could easily have come up empty on both counts.