Film Review: City of Rock

A ragtag rock group is always on the verge of splitting apart, yet they stay together to support an important park devoted to the music they love, in this rambunctious, obvious but nonetheless quite entertaining romp from China.
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A gigantic guitar presides over Rock Park, a small town in China whose residents have fully bought and dote upon the musical American Dream. The park is imperiled, however, by big corporate interests who want to redevelop the entire place. Hu Liang (Da Peng) lives for rock and is determined to prevent this from happening by organizing a big charity concert and, to that end, partners with music agent Cheng Gong. Hu also throws together his own band to headline the event, which includes an adorable little girl, always a favorite in Chinese cinema.

Da Peng, who once got into a contretemps with Conan O’Brien over ripping off his show, has thrown together a rollicking entertainment with the help of a sprightly, very committed cast and a very comely-looking production, no doubt engendered by his recent big successes. The songs are catchy and the plot is all over the place, but in an appealing shaggy-dog kind of way like the old Crosby-Hope road films. Da Peng makes a fit everyguy, all too susceptible to the lure of big money over the music that stirs his soul.

Romantic interest Coulee Nazha is absolutely lovely to look at and, like all modern Chinese leading ladies, is happily no shrinking violet, admirably holding her own both onstage as a hardcore rocker chick and off, in the predominantly male world in which she toils. And, in the ubiquitous role of the chubby, antic sidekick, Quiao Shan provides the requisite rubber-faced mugging and perilous pratfalls, but also brings something new: gayness, and his unrequited lust for Hu Liang, although the stuff of the most primitive, decidedly un-P.C. comedy, is nonetheless often hilarious in its utter cluelessness.

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