It isn’t bad enough to be toxic, but Pop Rocks — ABC Family’s tale of a rocker-turned-dad-turned-rocker — throws out more than one bad rock 'n’ roll cliché.
The acting performances are generally solid, if not spectacular, though there isn’t much the cast can do with this saccharine script, filled with cringe-worthy moments.
The film kicks off with a second-rate Behind the Music knockoff telling the story of Rock Toxin, an early 1980s heavy metal band that’s some sort of fusion of Poison and Kiss. Though it’s said they’re from the early 80s, they look like 70s glam rockers and play like a late-80s hair band.
Rock Toxin was a one-hit wonder, enjoying success in 1982 then suffering an explosive on-stage breakup. Though Izzy resurfaces on TV to tell the band’s story, the reclusive Dagger, the band’s front man, was never heard from again.
Twenty-two years later, we meet Jerry Harden (Gary Cole, best known as Office Space boss Bill Lumbergh), a prototypical suburban dad with the prototypical suburban family and a big secret — he’s Dagger. One day, Izzy (David Jensen) stops by the bank where Jerry now works as a loan officer to ask him to get the band back together. At first, Jerry’s reluctant, but when the bonus he’s expecting is less than promised — and with big private-school and college bills for his teenage kids on the horizon — he changes his mind, deciding his family will never know about the reunion or his past.
Thus begins the deception — and the cliché-fest.
First, when Jerry is late getting home because of band practice, wife Allison (Sherilyn Fenn) naturally assumes he’s having an affair. Then there are the expected tensions between strict parent Jerry and his two kids, Liam (Asher Book) — who’s starting his own band out of the family garage — and Johanna (Olivia Brady) — who catches the eye of Rock Toxin’s young bassist.
And there’s Mr. Donaldson, Jerry’s straight-laced boss at the Acorn Bank & Trust, whose wife is running for city council — and wants to make Allison her manager and turn Rock Toxin’s renting a house in town into a campaign issue.
Throughout the movie, everyone Jerry knows is just seconds away from discovering his secret, yet somehow no one ever finds out.
In the meantime, there are several rather silly scenes as Jerry revisits his rock persona and costume for the first time; the obligatory press conference, with Allison in the audience and Dagger affecting a fake British accent to conceal his identity; and close calls with the kids.
When the secret is revealed, and all turns out OK in the end, viewers are left scratching their heads as to what the big deal was in the first place. Best to avoid the mystery by avoiding the movie.
Pop Rocks debuts Sept. 10 at 8 p.m. on ABC Family.
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Mike Demenchuk has served as content manager of Broadcasting+Cable and Multichannel News since 2016. After stints as reporter and editor at Adweek, The Bond Buyer and local papers in New Jersey, he joined the staff of Multichannel News in 1999 as assistant managing editor and has served as the cable trade publication's managing editor since 2005. He edits copy and writes headlines for both the print magazine and website, wrangles the occasional e-newsletter and reviews TV shows from time to time. He's also the guy to bother with your guest blog, Fates & Fortunes and Freeze Frame submissions.
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