||Despite the title, “perfect” is the last word one would think of to describe this awful road movie about a rock-and-roll band making its way from the East Coast to California in 1991. Cliché-ridden and ineptly made, “The Perfect Age of Rock ’N’ Roll” is a period piece that would have been moldy even twenty years ago.
The story, told in flashback by a dissipated, reclusive erstwhile rocker named Spyder (Kevin Zegers in heavy makeup) to a magazine reporter, details the meteoric rise and fall of his band Lost Soulz, which had a gigantic premiere album but stumbled badly with its second. Under pressure from his label to come up with good new songs for a third album or else be dumped, he makes a surprise visit to his childhood buddy Eric Genson (Jason Ritter), an elementary school music teacher whose dad was a famous rocker until he overdosed, to offer him a place in the band. The reason is soon revealed: the songs on the first album were Eric’s, which Spyder had appropriated. Now he wants him to write more and save Lost Soulz.
Eric agrees, but insists that the two of them, along with the other two band members and their manager Rose (Taryn Manning), travel to California along what had been Route 66 in an old RV driven by his father’s pal, Augie West (Peter Fonda). Along the way cokehead Spyder bickers with everybody, Eric and Rose hook up, Augie visits an old flame, and the group stops periodically at truck stops and roadside clubs, where Spyder and Eric often engage in impromptu gigs. (The latter are totally implausible, but one of them—at a blues bar—is the best sequence in the picture, largely because of the musicians who join them onstage.) It all ends up with a recording session in Hollywood and a party afterward at which Eric finds Spyder and Rose in a more than compromising situation and disappears into the sunset in the sporty new sportscar Spyder’s bought for him (the very model, incidentally, in which James Dean died).
Writer-director Scott Rosenbaum presents this story as a mini-version of “Citizen Kane,” with the reporter (Lukas Haas) prodding the spaced-out Spyder about whether there exists a legendary third Lost Soulz album, recorded in that last session before Genson drove off into history—the picture’s hokey musical stand-in for Rosebud. That device is pretty lame, but one could forgive it if the scenes weren’t so clumsily constructed and the dialogue so risible and poorly delivered. Zegers, who was so impressive in “Transamerica,” is absurdly broad and unconvincing here, and Ritter comes off so badly he seems like an amateur. Fonda simply coasts without any apparent effort through his scenes, which like the whole picture appear to be one-take efforts. Technically things are fairly grim. There’s one eye-catching moment, when the RV speeds across a mountainous road and a bolt of lightning appears in the distance—presumably a serendipitous bit of luck for cinematographer Tom Richmond.
“The Perfect Age of Rock’N’ Roll” could have used a lot more of that good fortune, but it’s sadly lacking. The result is a dreary little movie in every respect.