Twenty years ago, things were looking bright for drummer Robert "Fish" Fishman (Rainn Wilson) as his heavy metal band Vesuvius were on the brink of huge success. One night they'd just come off stage after a killer gig, and a record company man was there to inform them he was able to offer them a deal - but part of that deal was that Fish should be replaced by a relative of one of the company execs. The rest of the band bristled at this until they realised how much cash they could be raking in, so that night, with Fish furiously chasing them, they headed off to leave him in the dust...
When The Rocker failed at the box office, the general consensus was that this was down to School of Rock being what we wanted to see and with no Jack Black, there was no interest. Actually this gave the impression of the producers not wanting him, but Will Ferrell, as the role of Fish would have fit him like a glove; without him, Wilson would have to do, and he certainly threw himself into the proceedings as if this, like his character, was seeing his last chance for success and he was going to hang onto it for dear life. Of course, he went on to continued success in comedy projects and The Rocker's failure was a blip in his career.
But the fact that it only garnered a small cult following was frustrating, not because it was some kind of lost classic, but all the way through you could see where it could have been better. The basic premise was that in modern times Vesuvius are massive, which seems unlikely for an act which looks so reluctant to leave the eighties behind, and Fish (not the one from Marillion) is relegated to office drone status, simmering with resentment every time his old band is mentioned, and even when they aren't. But there is hope as by a convoluted turn of events he ends up playing drums for his nephew Matt (Josh Gad) and his schoolfriends in their band.
Although A.D.D. (that's what they're called) are kind of emo and therefore not exactly as ambitious as they might be, with Fish in the lineup he encourages them to start getting shows to play, but it's an opportunity nobody saw coming which offers them the stardom he thinks they deserve, and it's his "fault". Having been thrown out of his sister's house, he stays in a very hot basement of a Chinese takeaway to practice with the rest of the band over the internet via webcams, and he gets so overheated he does so naked. Once his niece sees this she somewhat spitefully puts the footage on YouTube, and they become a novelty sensation, but what do you know? People watch for the comedy nudity, and stay for the rockin' tunes.
Except there's a credibility problem with that which the film doesn't face up to, and that is A.D.D.'s songs are very bland and forgettable, not the sort of thing which should really suit Fish, and not the sort of thing you could believe would cause such a sensation by the end of the movie. Even if you got over that hurdle, there remained the problem that for a comedy, this wasn't all that funny: sure, it was goodnatured and its heart was in the right place, but there was only one decent laugh in it (sleeping with eyes open) and that had nothing to do with the clichés of rock 'n' roll which they sought to lampoon, but actually embraced with unexpected lack of irony. So everyone was game, the subject matter was not bad at all, yet the humour was as mild as the music. Included were romantic leanings with Christina Applegate for Fish and band members Emma Stone and Teddy Gieger fumbling towards love, again nothing you couldn't find in any number of so-so comedies. It was nice enough, but needed that spark of originality.