You may recall that "Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll" was the name of a song by Ian Dury and the Blockheads, a British New Wave punk band from the late 1970s and early '80s. If you don't remember it, or if you're not sure you've heard of Ian Dury, the film named after the song will do little to enlighten you. Dury may have been a colorful figure, and the film is stylishly directed, but it follows the same musical-biopic formula already used in countless other movies. There's nothing here for someone who isn't already an Ian Dury fan.
It might create some new Andy Serkis fans, though. The English actor, so far best known for playing Gollum in the Lord of the Rings films, gets to show his real face (it looks like Rowan Atkinson's) and perform without digital enhancement. His lively performance has as much gusto as the real Ian Dury's must have. The band's concerts look like a cross between a rock show and a circus, with Ian, in gaudy costumes and burlesque makeup, acting the part of the carnival barker. Serkis clearly relishes the experience.
Offstage, he plays Ian as a temperamental S.O.B., as is common among rock stars, and especially among rock stars who have movies made about them. A childhood bout with polio left Ian with a bum leg, and flashbacks -- yes, there are flashbacks -- show his troubled relationship with his father (played by Ray Winstone) and the headmaster (Toby Jones) at the school for disabled children he was sent to. As an adult, Ian is stubbornly committed to living life on his own terms, which appears to mean doing pretty much whatever the hell he wants to. His wife, Betty (Olivia Williams), must come downstairs immediately after giving birth to their child to ask him and his bandmates to please keep the noise down.