Background: Pete Best is a musician destined to be known as the guy that could have been a Beatle, having left the band just before they became superstars across the globe. In a sense, he represents all of us in some way or another, missing out on a dream for one reason or another, something we regret for the rest of our lives. In a semi-nod to his story was born a movie called The Rocker, starring Rainn Wilson as Robert "Fish" Fishman, a guy kicked out of a heavy metal band twenty years prior, left to become a bitter man with only his regrets left to sustain him. That said, here is my review of The Rocker: Born To Rock Edition on Blu-ray, the upgraded version marginally worth checking into if you like flimsy comedies with half ready character actors in lead roles.
Movie: The Rocker: Born To Rock Edition is one of those harmless little movies showcasing the talents of Rainn Wilson as the hapless loser that is dumped by his lifelong friends when a record company decides to sign them to a contract. The company wants a new drummer (hired strictly because of his family member working for the company, a truism in many walks of life) and Fish is sent out to get drinks while the evil agent springs the deal on his mates. They are not happy with the idea until it is almost revoked, leading to a chase where Fish chases them down before they escape; each going their separate ways as he becomes a slug and they become superstars in a heavy metal band called Vesuvius. Unable to stay employed or form a long term relationship, Fish is kicked out of his apartment and ends up in his sister's attic, wasting his life away until an opportunity arises where he can play again. This time, it is with his nephew's start up band, a far cry from the heavy metal days and decadent lifestyle but at least a chance for the attention whore Fish to get in front of a crowd. Nephew Matt (Josh Gad) idolizes Fish but his friends Curtis (Teddy Geiger) and Amelia (Emma Stone) are less sure, Curtis' mother Kim (Christina Applegate) wary of the age difference between them.
As expected, the lightweight script has Fish influencing the others to make best use of their talents, hardly enough to be noticed until a computer glitch (ala "American Pie") thrusts them in the spotlight for a predatory record label to use as the basis for a marketing gimmick. The idea that sometimes you do get a second chance is powerful enough to base the story on but it then falls into the dreary trap of stereotypes and clichés, Wilson hardly talented enough to support the mild effort on his own and the rest of the cast prevented from doing much more than the minimum possible as they go through the motions. The abundance of lowbrow humor aside, it has all been done to death in better movies over the years and Wilson's role seems to have been written specifically for Jack Black; the imitation of his character not very flattering for Wilson at all. The dead weight of the casting was second to the weak fodder propping up the majority of the movie too, each plot point telegraphed so far in advance that you could have scripted it out on a matchbook cover after ten minutes (and that's being generous!).
The false starts and minor successes on the road were loosely thrust together too, the parents all seemingly in comas given their reactions to the events leading up to the big concert, Fish greatly upset at playing second fiddle to those that wronged him. As is, the movie would have been better if pared down to about a 40 minute short of the better material too, the romantic angle for Fish and Kim clumsily added in and Matt about as comfortable in the role as the fat nephew as Geiger pretending to be the heartthrob. I wish there was more to write but when a movie this basic comes along, there isn't much to say and I'm not movie snob enough to bore you with various anecdotes about the cast or director, his last hit being over ten years ago with "The Full Monty". While the movie itself was quite boring to me in most cases, the glimpses of potential I spotted merited a rating of Rent It largely because of the wealth of extras this time, something I generally don't use to elevate a dreadfully mediocre flick with but in this case, I felt compelled to.
Picture: The Rocker: Born To Rock Edition (Blu-Ray) was presented in 1.85:1 ratio widescreen using the AVC codec on the dual layer disc with 1080p resolution. When I spot checked the video bitrate, it clocked in at around 27.2 Mbps and the visuals did not seemingly suffer from lack of space this time. There was a lot of detail, crisp edges (with some enhancement), and modest amounts of grain but few compression artifacts or video noise from what I could see. The focus was rarely soft and the lighting seemed to enhance the look of the show, my best means of comparison being against the SD extras that showed the movie as nicely superior in all cases.
Sound: The primary track was the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track in English, 5.1 Dolby Digital tracks for English, Spanish, and French all coming in as "also rans" in my estimation. The primary track had an audio bitrate of just under 4 Mbps when I looked at it, significantly superior to the others and this helped the solid aural experience shine by comparison. The vocals and sound effects did not benefit a whole lot but the score and soundtrack were nicely enhanced as a result with some fine separation and dynamic range, making me painfully aware of the modest quality of the vocals experience more than anything. I did not detect any changes in the score here from the original theatrical release of the show but this was a new one to me so you mileage may vary.
Extras: The first extra I paid any attention to was the free digital copy included here, eligible to download to any computer or handheld device according to the instructions. There were then two audio commentaries, one with the director and Rainn Wilson (that was kind of boring since they were such huge cheerleaders for the movie) as well as one with Gad, Stone, Geiger, and Jason Sudekis all chiming in. The kids were busier on their commentary but each had a flavor I found enjoyable to listen too, the first concentrating on technical and anecdotal material while the second seemed to be the kids having fun. The extras included in the SD format were the usual gag reel and deleted scenes (there could have been many more scenes deleted as far as I cared), public service announcements by the band members of Vesuvius, a practical joke played on Matt Gad, an interview with Pete Best about his experience with missing out on superstardom, a Fox special for the show with all of them in character, much of the cast scamming to get walk on roles in Wilson's television series, a feature on the music of the movie, a similar feature with rock and roll tales, a standard Behind the Scenes bit full of clips, internet Pod casts where Slash and Wilson goofed around, a Rock Beat clip with Wilson, some trailers, and the music video for "I'm Not Bitter" as sung in the movie but clips added in to make it a darling of MTV. In all then, the extras were the best thing about the double disc set, showing a lot more creativity than the humdrum movie itself.
Final Thoughts: The Rocker: Born To Rock Edition in Blu-ray might be deemed overkill by many of you out there, even fans of Wilson hard pressed to justify spending he extra dough for the upgrade when the best part of the set was the SD extras but the package merited a rating of Rent It as far as I was concerned if you are in the mood for a seriously tame flick using modest talents all around. Had Jack Black been cast in the lead role, he might have well enhanced the production for me but there were so many glaring reasons to check this one out a single time and forget about it, I cannot say that for sure. I may well be jaded but ultimately, The Rocker: Born To Rock Edition broke no new ground, hardly delivered on the comedic material, and did not use the cast to their full potential so do not expect very much and you should find it cute enough to serve as a popcorn flick.