Sunday, November 08, 2009

"Anvil!" rocks much more than I could have imagined

You know, I actually saw two fairly exceptional movies yesterday, making it a truly banner day in my book, but I'm really not quite ready to say anything about "Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire" just yet, so instead I'll start with what for me was a truly pleasant surprise, "Anvil! The Story of Anvil."

Actually, I will say this about "Precious": Don't ever doubt the power of Tyler Perry and Oprah. I drove to see this at the AMC Southlake 24 in Morrow, Ga., and for a 10:15 a.m. show there was an almost completely packed house (and quite a few kids who probably shouldn't have been there for such an intense movie, but that's an entirely different subject.) I was thrilled to see that it took in $585,000 at just 18 theaters on Friday alone to shatter all previous indie records. See it if you can.

Saturday night, however, it was all about Canadian rockers Anvil at my house, and I'm sure glad I finally invited them in. I had hesitated to see this simply because I - mistakenly - thought I was just too old for heavy metal. Well, I'm happy to say that as I write this and listen to Anvil's glorious album "This is Thirteen" and drink my coffee and Ovaltine, I don't think that's ever gonna be true.

And besides, you really don't have to have any love at all for heavy metal music to enjoy this movie, which is at least as much about friendship and the power of impossible dreams than it ever is about the music.

Comparisons to "This Is Spinal Tap" will be inevitable and are often apt, especially since Anvil's drummer is (yes, really) named Robb Reiner, but Sacha Gervasi's documentary has something going for it that the other Reiner clearly didn't (and really, with a fake band, couldn't) have, a genuine affection for his subject. And you'll certainly share that once you meet Anvil frontman Steve "Lips" Kudlow and Reiner and see the bond they share as they pursue their dream of heavy metal stardom well past its expiration date.

When we first meet them, Lips is playing a guitar with a dildo (again, yes really) and the band is at the height of its stardom. After some talking heads telling us how great they were (and man, what the hell was that growth on Lemmy's cheek? gross), which gets old pretty fast, we fast-forward to present day, in which Lips is a driver for a catering company and clearly none too happy about it.

And Gervasi, a fan of the band himself, lets the attempted comeback that plays out next get pushed right to the brink of parody, but never treats his delusionally earnest subjects with anything approaching irony or sarcasm. And believe me, it certainly would have been easy to succumb to those as our heroes embark on a European tour after receiving an e-mail from a fan who in short order gets referred to as their "manager" (and later marries the band's guitarist.)

Oddly enough, things don't go anywhere near as well as they might have hoped, and there's plenty of funny to be had here, from Reiner's description of how one of their first songs, "Thumb Hang," was inspired by the Spanish Inquisition to the fact that his sister apparently really is named Droid.

But what comes through the strongest as they go on to somehow record a new album, "This is Thirteen," (which, yes, I did buy) is the friendship of these two impossible dreamers, and that's what makes it all the more satisfying once you see how modest that dream really is at the big finale (and, I don't want to spoil too much, but there are few things in the world funnier than seeing Japanese girls dressed up as French maids and chanting "Anvil!")

Ultimately, though this was loaned to me by fellow cubicle slave Randy Waters, I think I'll have to buy my own copy, because - like "Office Space" - it's just the perfect cure for any kind of dreary day. Rent it as soon as you can. Peace out.

1 comment:

J. Marquis said...

It was a truly enjoyable flick. My friend Sarah hates heavy metal but even she was won over by these guys and their passion.

It's ironic, if they'd been really successful back in the Eighties they wouldn't have been the subject of a documentary and wouldn't have to gotten to enjoy the adulation they're experiencing now.