Monday, December 21, 2009

Paragraph Movie Reviews: Anvil! The Story of Anvil

If you don't have plans to see this movie, you can check the spoilers here and then come back.

I've heard this documentary following the neverending quest of an aging Canadian metal band to recapture the 15 minutes of fame they had 20 years ago described as both "a real-life 'This Is Spinal Tap'" and "a metal version of 'The Wrestler'" and it definitely fits both bills. It's got the absurd aspects of "Tap" to the point where you're questioning early on if this is really legit or staged, but then somewhere midway the heart of "Wrestler" kicks in and you begin feeling a great deal of sympathy for the would-be rock stars instead of bemusement towards their antics. I'm a fan of both aforementioned films, and while the mash-up can play a bit awkward, I found this piece to be enjoyable and heart-wrenching, if not altogether mind-blowing. Certainly it's a story that was worth telling, and Anvil fan-turned-director Sacha Gervasi excels at choosing the right sound, shots and effects to play with your emotions and really get you behind our heroes. If there's a major failing of the movie, I'd say it's that there's potential for a documentary probably twice as long here that I'd gladly watch, but instead Gervasi zips through to the bits he maybe assumes the average viewer would want to see and glosses over a lot of background. You've got the requisite tour footage, fights between bandmates and confessionals from the guys in the group, but the interviews with their families for one thing show a lot of promise but never get the screentime they deserve. Lips, the uber-optimist/rambling genius lead singer is an incredible character, with his goofy smile and childlike enthusiasm, but I'd like to get a little more background on the older sister who lent him $12,000 to fly to England and record a metal album at age 51. Similarly, brooding drummer Robb Reiner showing us his studio stronghold makes for probing stuff, but I'm far more fascinated by his father who survived the Holocaust and then encouraged his boy's interest in music. It's almost as if Gervasi wants to delve into these guys' lives as much as is necessary to make them accesible, but then stop short so they can still be characters as well. Still, I'd say there's more good in Anvil! than bad and at the end of 80 minutes I was still standing up cheering when they took their final curtain call, so clearly Gervasi did a lot right. The commentaries from guys like Slash, Lars from Metallica and Lemmy from Motorhead on what a huge deal Anvil should have been were also really neat and I wish they'd continued throughout rather than being relegated to the bumpers. If Gervasi failed in any respect, it's that he made half of a movie so good that I'm really bummed I feel like I didn't get to see the rest.

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