Anvil! The Story of Anvil (R)
Three and a half stars out of four
In their groundbreaking mockumentary "This Is Spinal Tap," director Rob Reiner and screenwriter Christopher Guest created the perfect guide of what not to do if you want to be a successful heavy metal band. If Anvil's founding members Steve "Lips" Kudlow and Robb Reiner (how's that for karmic irony?) had perhaps watched that film and taken it to heart, things would have surely turned out better.
Or maybe they did watch it and just simply chose to ignore it.
Meeting as teens in Canada in 1973, Steve and Robb promised each other they would rock on forever; thus far they've kept their vows. Both men are now past 50 and they're still playing, albeit in half-filled dives and often without even getting paid. Depending on your perspective, these guys are either incredibly dedicated to their art or pathetically delusional. They also look like muffin-faced, separated-at-birth twins baring an uncanny resemblance to Mike Myers' title character in "Wayne's World" 30 years on.
At about the same time of the 1984 release of "Spinal Tap," Anvil was touring the festival circuit along with fellow hair bands Whitesnake, Bon Jovi, Slayer and Megadeath and appeared to be poised for superstardom. Then, thanks to iffy label promotion, shoddy management and cataclysmic bad luck, they fell off the musical map. For the better part of the next two decades, Anvil has attempted multiple comebacks, to little or no avail.
Directed by dedicated Anvil follower Sacha Gervasi, one might expect "Anvil" to be a fawning love letter from a biased fan hell-bent on painting his heroes as misunderstood victim geniuses, but that's not the case. Shot and edited in a manner that demonstrates complete, non-judgmental neutrality, Gervasi's film is surprisingly clear-headed and portrays Steve and Robb exactly as they are: eternally optimistic, somewhat clueless man-children pursuing a dream.
If Gervasi is guilty of anything, it's his occasional parroting of Rob Reiner's distinct blueprint. Like the Guest and Michael McKean characters in "Spinal Tap," Steve and Robb have heated arguments only to (almost) kiss and make up minutes later. Upon arrival in Dover, England, to record their unimaginatively titled 13th album "This is Thirteen," the band pays a giggle-inducing visit to Stonehenge. The often barbed interviews with Steve and Robb's spouses and relatives are so frank and convincing, they almost appear rehearsed.
Whether you think of Steve and Robb as blindly foolhardy or oddly inspirational, no one can question their absolute purity and complete dedication to each other and their band. To trudge onward in the face of such perpetual failure and constant disappointment is amazing and a tribute to the human spirit.
If you'd like to catch them live, you're in luck. Anvil will be performing tonight at the Landmark Midtown Art Cinema in Atlanta in tandem with a screening of the film. Visit their Web site,www.anvilmetal.tk/, or call 678-494-1424 for more details. (Metal on Metal Productions)