Anvil! The Story of Anvil
How to review a documentary? Especially a documentary that is so widely compared to the world’s most famous mockumentary? That’s the task I’ve managed to set for myself here with Anvil! The Story of Anvil. The comparisons to This is Spial Tap are certainly there, (and certainly the fact that one of Anvil’s two core members is named Robb Reiner doesn’t help discourage the association,) but aside from the fact that these are real people, Anvil strikes a much different chord than Tap, with less of the glitz, and none of the superficial silliness that marked the other Rob Reiner’s film. Anvil tells the story of a band with no delusions of grandeur. The opening sequence with Steve “Lips” Kudlow describing the details of his “day job” as a driver for a school lunch supply company really drive’s home that this is going to be the story of a band who’s big break never quite came. But as director Sacha Gervasi’s story unfolds we see that this is something more. This is a story about family, about a friendship that is closer than brotherood, about NEVER giving up on your dreams, no matter how absurd they might seem.
It’s not a perfect movie. It’s short at clocking in around 80 minutes, but it still seems to drag at times. Perhaps both problems could have been alleviated by spending some time covering the time between the band’s initial brush with success in the ’80’s and the present. It really seemed like the film’s answer to why they missed out on breaking through as superstars was “we don’t know, maybe because they’re Canadian.” But there must be something more to the story. Did the band’s ego get in the way? Were there drug problems? Or were they just unable to write a hit? I’m assuming that’s just not the story Gervasi wanted to tell, but something felt lacking in this part of the story.
As a story, it’s a good one; book-ended nicely with a pair of concerts in Japan decades apart. The best portion of the film has to be the band’s calamitous European tour. From the outright absurdity of the band’s heavily-accented manager’s attempt to use a phonetic alphabet, “S like in Sodom,” to another fight between Lips and Robb, to the night club owner who informs the band that he’s not paying them because they were late, doing so only after they’ve performed a full set.
The story is inspiring as much as it is sad, and I’m left really pulling for these two late-middle-aged dreamers to finally get their big break. Bottom line, this is a good, not great movie, that is certainly worth seeing.