Mar 2, 2009

Anvil! The Story Of Anvil [15]

Dir: Sacha Gervasi
There’s a moment in Anvil! The Story of Anvil that was greeted with a laugh that reverberated around the cinema for almost a full minute. Anvil are recording their thirteenth album, and their producer reaches over to a dial and turns it up as far as it will go… to eleven. This is far from the only moment during Sacha Gervasi’s riotously entertaining documentary in which it feels like a real life Spinal Tap, but there’s more to Anvil than that.

In the 80’s Anvil, formed by singer/guitarist Steve ‘Lips’ Kudlow and drummer - I SWEAR I’m not making this up - Robb Reiner, were on the verge of metal stardom on the back of their second album Metal on Metal, they were loved by audiences, revered by peers (Slash and Lars Ulrich both appear in the movie), and then they vanished. 25 years later we find Anvil in Canada, all holding down soul destroying day jobs, and still plugging away at the dream of ‘making it’ in their early 50’s. Lips and Robb know that this is their last real shot, so they contact their Metal on Metal producer to help them craft their latest album ‘This is Thirteen’.

I’d never heard of Anvil, and I’m not interested in heavy metal, my own musical tastes tending more to Kate Bush than Metallica, but what makes this film engaging is not Anvil’s music, it’s Steve and Robb themselves. Like any couple that has been together 30 years they fight, but aside from these brief moments these two come across as the nicest (and, yes, perhaps the most deluded) men in rock. They are just so easy to love, so easy to root for, that you are taken along on their journey and feel everything with them every step of the way, even as you laugh at the ridiculousness of much of what occurs.

They embark on a disastrous European tour, booked by the rhythm guitarist’s Czech girlfriend, which careens from disaster to Tap like disaster (they miss trains, spend hours driving around venues without being able to find them, play to near empty rooms and get ripped off by club owners) but Lips, the eternal optimist, only says “At least there was a tour for things to go wrong on.” How you can fail to love him after that is beyond me.

Anvil! is a funny film, but, and this is what keeps it from being a real life Spinal Tap, it’s also an emotional and uplifting one, you can’t help but leave the cinema with a big grin on your face. The only real problem is that it feels quite brutally edited, with the other band members given very short shrift by Gervasi, and frequent cuts excising weeks at a time. I can’t help but think there’s almost another feature full of great stuff to come on the DVD. Still, Anvil! The Story of Anvil is sure to be a great night out; you’ll definitely laugh, and you may just cry too.

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