There’s been a fairly strong tradition of Hollywood comedies revolving around the idea of aspiring rock gods, from the oddball antics of Bill and Ted and their time-travelling escapades in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure and Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey through the Wayne’s World movies, up to the recent hit School of Rock, with many more along the way – including the oft-forgotten Airheads from 1994, which helped launch the careers of both Brendan Fraser and Adam Sandler. It’s partly because the excesses and egotistical nature of so many real-life rockers are so amusing – and gloriously parodied in the classic spoof documentary This is Spinal Tap – that these films can work so well. But it’s also thanks to the fact that the world has long been packed out with wannabe stars – from the aspiring actors of any number of Hollywood-set movies to the aspiring pop stars of the perennial TV talent shows like The X-Factor, Stars in Their Eyes or Opportunity Knocks.
We all like to laugh at the hopelessly deluded – it’s cruel, perhaps, but it can’t be denied that the most entertaining parts of any TV talent show are the truly awful entrants, which is where the likes of The X-Factor and Pop Idol did so well, in spending as much time on the dismally bad auditions as the genuinely talented performers. And yet we also always like to root for the underdog and see ordinary, everyday people like ourselves do well and take their place alongside the greats that inspired them. In the US, the idea that anyone can rise to fame and fortune is part of the very basis of American national identity – the log cabin myth of Abraham Lincoln that epitomizes the American dream has become, in the 21st century, the myth of various stars’ rise to fame from obscurity.
In the modern world, the potential for fame is greater than ever before – thanks in part to the plethora of talent and reality TV shows that are doing a roaring trade worldwide, but also due to a little thing called the internet. Across the world, millions of us are blogging, posting videos, and uploading our own music, photography and art for everyone to see – and sure enough, the web has created its share of celebrities. Admittedly, most of them fall into the “so bad it’s funny” category – like the infamous “Star Wars kid”, Mahir (the “I love you” guy), and the hysterical Britney fan – but still. That is, it seems, what makes us tick. The internet thrives on stupidity – be it illiterate comments on news articles or dancing hamsters.
So, the aspiration to fame and fortune appeals? Wannabe rock stars have a good track record in Hollywood comedy films? How about we chuck a bit of internet celebrity in there as well and see what happens? The end result may be entirely predictable (aging rocker joins a desperate teen band, gets videoed in the nude and posted on YouTube, becomes famous and gets overwhelmed), and the jokes may mostly be borrowed from a the likes of School of Rock, but star Rainn Wilson – who plays Mackenzie Crook’s character in the US version of The Office – is both likeable and pathetic enough to pull it off. Mindless fun is the order of the day with these things – as with romantic comedies, we all know what’s going to happen, but we enjoy it anyway. So even though this is no classic, there are certainly worse ways to waste a couple of hours on a gloomy Autumn day.
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