The plot of this heavy-metal Cinderella story may sound like a fairy tale, but it's based on the true story of Tim "Ripper" Owens, the lead singer of a Judas Priest cover band who was asked to front the real thing when Priest's Rob Halford left the band in 1996. A great premise for a movie, right? Right, and the first half of Stephen Herek's heavily fictionalized account of Owens's story is thoroughly engaging, like a greasy version of a STAR IS BORN. The problems lie entirely in the follow-through. Pittsburgh, 1985. By day, Chris Cole (Mark Wahlberg) is a simple machine repairman, who lives with his parents and has turned his bedroom into a shrine dedicated to English heavy-metal band Steel Dragon. But during his off-hours, Chris is the lead singer of Blood Pollution, a popular Steel Dragon cover sorry, tribute band. His look carefully patterned after that of Dragon's lead singer Bobby Beers (Jason Flemyng), Chris is happy to practice "Stand Up and Shout" in the basement of a local porn theater until every churning power chord, every squealing guitar lick, every operatic shriek is absolutely perfect. But his dedication is driving the rest of the band crazy they'd like to do some original material. After yet another onstage brawl, they finally give him the boot. Then, out of the blue, the phone rings. It's Steel Dragon's lead guitarist, Kirk Cuddy (Dominic West). Bobby Beers has just quit, Steel Dragon is auditioning for a new lead singer and they were wondering: Would Chris be interested? Needless to say, Chris gets the gig. And as his star rises, the film slides completely into cliché. Renamed "Izzy," Chris is plunged into the other side of the fantasy, a strobe-lit Sodom of sex and drugs, living a life that isn't really his for the benefit of fans like the one he once was. Wahlberg is entirely likeable, and his days with the Funky Bunch were perfect training for this role. But Jennifer Aniston, who plays Chris's manager/girlfriend and the main casualty of his success, is poorly cast; she's nobody's idea of a steel-town rock-and-roll fan, no matter how bad her haircut or how short her skirts. But Herek does capture the rush and crush of a stadium concert, and the music (more Leppard than Priest) isn't half bad in a disposable, arena-rock sort of way.
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