If you've seen the 1984 mockumentary This is Spinal Tap, you may think that the recent ad campaign for Anvil! The Story of Anvil is an attempt to market a similar movie. Despite the fact that there are many similarities between the two films, Anvil is a real band and this movie is a real documentary. And a damn good one at that.
Anvil! The Story of Anvil (2008)
Starring: Steve "Lips" Kudlow, Robb Reiner, and Glenn Five
The film opens with a montage of bands that played a huge music festival in Japan in 1984. The bands include Whitesnake, Scorpions, and Bon Jovi, who all went on to each sell millions of albums. Canadian metal band Anvil shared the stage with those now-famous bands that day and, 25 years later, no one outside of their hardcore fans knows they exist.
Anvil! The Story of Anvil documents the band's history as well as their continued struggle for notoriety and fame. After releasing 12 albums over a span of 23 years and inspiring the likes of Metallica, Anthrax, Guns N' Roses, and Slayer, the band is forced to deal with the fact that their opportunity to be big may have come and gone.
When the band isn't playing gigs in front of 50 people or less, lead singer and guitarist Steve "Lips" Kudlow works as a deliveryman for a children's catering service and drummer Robb Reiner works for a demolition company. Then a fan from Europe books the band for a tour of the continent and Anvil jumps at the opportunity. They embark on their "biggest tour in 20 years" thinking that it could get them in front of some record label executives and land them a deal. What ensues is a simultaneously hilarious and heartbreaking document of botched travel plans, empty venues, and promoter mishaps that cause the effort to be largely wasted.
Director Sacha Gervasi, himself a longtime fan of the band, could have simply made this film as a long-form video and tried to impress people with these overlooked metal veterans. (Had he done so, it would have more than likely fallen on the same deaf ears as the band's previous output.) What he does, however, is show that many of the problems that befall the band are a result of their own failings and, at times, sheer stupidity. What shines through is the dedication that Kudlow and Reiner have for each other and the band. Almost in spite of themselves, the band soldiers on in an attempt to achieve at least enough fame to be able to quit their day jobs.
Seeing this band travel thousands of miles to play gigs for little to no money to small crowds of hardcore fans makes it even harder to swallow the instant success of today's "flavor-of-the-week", American Idol-wannabe, no-talent, manufactured pop stars.
A man seated behind me at the screening I attended exclaimed, "Wow, that was good! There wasn't one boring moment in the whole movie!" I got the feeling he doesn't attend many documentaries, music or otherwise. But, he's right. Anvil! The Story of Anvil is 90 minutes of all killer, no filler entertainment and it will be hard to find a better film this year.
Trivia: Since the film's release, the band has been featured in Rolling Stone, landed a spot as an opening act for AC/DC in the United States and some of their songs will be available for download for the Rock Band videogame.