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[Short Reviews]


Here’s a premise that will drive the postmodernists nuts: a tough local kid who became a pop star and then an actor plays the fictionalized version of a tough local kid who pretends to be a pop star and then becomes one. Based on the true story of Judas Priest vocalist Tim " Ripper " Owens (though the band disclaim the connection and the filmmakers no longer acknowledge it), the film stars a perfunctory Mark Wahlberg as Chris Cole, leader of Blood Pollution, Pittsburgh’s top Steel Dragon tribute band. Cole has less a Dionysian than a fetishistic attitude toward rock: it’s neither self-expression nor narcissistic exhibitionism he craves but meticulous re-creation. This gets on the nerves of his bandmates, who dream of someday performing original material, and they dump him. But Cole has great pipes (it’s Boogie Nights, but with a big voice), and when Steel Dragon dump their lead singer for being too " original, " he gets the gig and his fantasy becomes reality.

Or does it? For a while Rock Star has fun with its reality/simulation game, and director Stephen Herek uncorks some clever trompe-l’œil gags including a surreal scene with rival cover bands in full costume duking it out in a parking lot. But in the end wit and irony give way to cliché, as the decadent rock-star life breaks up Cole’s relationship with long-time flame Emily (Jennifer Aniston, hardnosed and funny) and everybody ends up in Seattle. Do I sense a grunge sequel? Let’s see how the soundtrack album does.


Issue Date: September 6 - 13, 2001