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Taryn Manning & Kevin Zegers in THE PERFECT AGE OF ROCK 'N' ROLL (Photo: Red Hawk Films)

Directed by Scott Rosenbaum
Produced by
Joseph White, Rosenbaum, Michael Ellis & Neil Carter
Written by
Rosenbaum & Jasin Cadic
Released by Red Hawk Films
USA. 92 min. Unrated
Kevin Zegers, Jason Ritter, Taryn Manning, Lukas Haas, Peter Fonda & Kelly Lynch

This not very magical, not very mysterious tour feels like an earnest exhibit in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum—Cleveland’s just about the only stop an archetypal band on the run doesn’t make on this familiar trip.

A reporter (Lukas Haas) ambitiously pursues a cover story for Rolling Stone by tracking down the long-rumored third album of the metaphorically named band Lost Soulz (shades of Guns N’ Roses). In a Long Island suburb, he finally gets reclusive ex-lead singer Spyder (Kevin Zegers) to confess his sodden, guilt-ridden story of the band’s unfinished musical legacy from two decades ago.

Back in 1991, Spyder was still potentially redeemable when he sauntered into his old high school band room to plead for a reunion with the bandmate he’d left behind. Eric (Jason Ritter), who must be the freshest-faced rocker since Paul McCartney, is shakily sticking to the straight and narrow, teaching music in his hometown. He was not only the intense guitar virtuoso behind Spyder’s whirling dervish, heavily made-up frontman, but he was also the one writing their songs in his basement, where they had bonded over their father issues. Spyder’s make-up covers abuse scars, and Eric has depressing memories, seen in a Jimi Hendrix-referencing purple haze of his self-destructive father-the-punk-rocker in a CBGB’s-type club.

But flamboyantly selfish Spyder took credit for modest Eric’s songs and went on to flame out in glam stardom without him. Now the record company demands another album, due in one week in Los Angeles, that he admits he can’t fulfill on his own, what with his cocaine addiction. Giving in, Eric demands a cross-country trip to recover his muse. An Airstream pulls up driven by road manager Augie (Peter Fonda), looking eerily like Neal Cassady at the wheel of the Merry Pranksters’ bus in Alex Gibney and Alison Ellwood’s Magic Trip, and the old gang is together again. Along old Route 66, Augie manages to find every classic rock station on the radio for a sing-along musical history tour along the way.

The RV rides into mythic territory when a blues roadhouse appears out of nowhere in the Delta night. The rousing jam with elder icons from Muddy Waters’ and Howlin’ Wolf’s bands—Hubert Sumlin on guitar, Pinetop Perkins on the ivories, Sugar Blue blowing harmonica, and Willie “Big Eyes” Smith on drums—makes the fictional characters’ spirited effort to drink from the well of inspiration even more pitiful. (The band’s songs, co-written by ex-New York Doll Steve Conte, are surprisingly soft rock.) And riding herd on the deadline is feisty manager Rosie (Taryn Manning), who displays admirable dance moves and musical knowledge, until she’s unfortunately reduced to the usual woman in the middle of two testosterone- (let alone booze and drugs) fueled competitors for sex and love.

The survival of the third album ultimately seems less intriguing than how and when the guy will join the “27 Club” of rock ‘n’ roll lore, of dying at age 27. (Amy Winehouse’s sad death spookily reinforces the legend.) Nevertheless, Zegers dominates in his showiest role since his breakthrough in Transamerica (2005), but Spyder’s story feels like a studied period recreation for the History Channel. Nora Lee Mandel
August 5, 2011



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