Hair bands of 1980s are one of rock ‘n’ roll’s easiest comic targets: The music, hairstyles, clothing and lifestyle were easily mocked when they were new, and are more natural fodder for satire as the years have passed. It’s surprising, then, that “Pop Rocks” is so completely humor-free. ABC Family’s telepic is a flat and contrived interpretation of a potentially funny concept — dad trying to keep his glam-rock past a secret while his band launches a comeback — that takes “family values” to a ridiculous level and fails to bring out the lunacy of metal acts.
William Ryan and Dan Berendsen’s script provides little inspiration for Gary Cole and Sherilyn Fenn. Their stiff performances suggest there wasn’t a soul on the production willing to have fun with the premise.
Cole plays Jerry Harden as obscenely uptight, fearing his buried past will be uncovered and he’ll lose his job as a banker — and his standing in the community. Izzy (David Jensen), his old bandmate in Rock Toxin, a hair band with a single hit album in 1982, creeps back into Harden’s life after appearing on a “Behind the Music” special and longing for the old days.
Izzy, who resembles a very tired member of Aerosmith, figures there’s a significant payday waiting if he can get Jerry, known as Dagger in his metal days, to join Stu (Douglas Griffin, who gives the one convincing perf) and new bassist Ramone (Dane Hereford) for a few gigs on the metal reunion circuit. Faced with a sudden cash crunch, Harden agrees, but draws the line at one show.
The band starts rehearsing in a house rented from — guess who — and Harden’s behavior becomes erratic: He’s always “working late” or out of the office; when daughter Olivia (Johanna Braddy) comes home unexpectedly, she catches him in his red tights. “I joined a gym,” he explains.
While Harden is working on re-establishing his rock credibility, he’s doing everything in his power to keep son Liam (Asher Book), who has a garage band, away from the rock ‘n’ roll life. Like so much of “Pop Rocks,” the father-son interaction rings consistently false. (Simultaneously, dad is trying to keep Olivia away from rock’s perils, including dating Ramone.)
Pic grows sillier by the minute as scenarios involving secret lives develop every which way and director Ron Lagomarsino appears to give up as “Rocks” gets downright goofy when the big concert approaches.