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A HEAVY METAL FANTASY WORLD

ROCK STAR ***

Rating: Rated R for sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll antics

Mark Wahlberg lives the fantasy of every teenage boy in his new film, "Rock Star," a tribute to the glory days of '80s heavy metal.

Wahlberg plays Chris Cole, a Pittsburgh-based copy-machine repairman who struggles to find his own musical voice. At night, he apes Billy Beers (Jason Flemyng) -- frontman of his favorite group, Steel Dragon -- in Blood Pollution, a tribute band.

His girlfriend, Emily (Jennifer Aniston), manages Chris' group and makes sure he looks exactly like Beers: leather suit, mascara and all. Emily, Chris and the rest of the band stand front row and center to see Steel Dragon in concert. Chris sings along at the top of his lungs, much to the dismay of Beers, whose voice is not as strong.

After the performance, Blood Pollution gets into a fight with another Steel Dragon tribute band, led by Third Eye Blind's Stephan Jenkins. It's just one of the movie's ironic "Spinal Tap"-like moments.

The entire night only fuels Chris' obsessive attention to detail in his next Blood Pollution performance, so much so that it causes an onstage fight between him and the guitarist. Chris gets kicked out of the band and simultaneously loses his closest friends. He starts to question his music and wonders if he can recover what he has lost.

Here's where the rock and roll dream predictably comes in. Unbeknownst to Chris, Steel Dragon wants to get rid of Beers. Two Steel Dragon groupies who attended Blood Pollution's performance happened to film it and take the tape with them to the group's L.A. mansion.

Before you can finish the chorus of Bon Jovi's "Livin' On A Prayer," Chris is auditioning for Beers' place.

While the movie asks viewers to stretch their imagination, "Rock Star" shows the good, the bad and the ugly of the rock world and how it can impact real people. Wahlberg, despite his obviously fake, long-haired wig, gives an authentic edge to the story.

The film's only weak point is Aniston, who acts exactly like Rachel from "Friends" would if she were dressed head-to-toe in '80s clothes.

However enjoyable "Rock Star" is, the best part comes during the credits, when the crew has a little fun at Wahlberg's expense. It's an absolutely hysterical moment if only for the look on his face. Here's a hint: It involves a funky bunch.

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