If a documentary is billed as a real life This is Spinal Tap then you know it’s got to be good.
Anvil! The Story of Anvil (you’ve got to love that title) is as you might expect the story of Anvil, a heavy metal band that pre-dated and influenced the likes of Slayer, Metallica, Anthrax, and Megadeath. However, life did not have the blessings of wild success that those bands enjoyed in store for Anvil. For some reason, maybe, because they’re Canadian, muses Lars Ulrich, they missed their chance to make it big, and when this documentary begins lead singer Lips and his trusty drummer Robb Reiner (yes, that’s his real name) are working dead end jobs, entering their 50s, and to the dismay of their loved ones still trying to make their rock and roll dreams a reality.
And believe me, they can still rock out.
This film has all the laughs that Spinal Tap does, but truly a lot more heart. The director could have let us follow this band around from mishap to mishap, and laugh at their misadventures, but he loves them too much to make the movie so simple, and by the end of the film you’ll love them too. This is the most touching documentary I’ve seen since King of Kong.
At the heart of this film is the spirit of loyalty between two guys who’ve been playing music together since they were 14. While trying to cut a 13th album they embark on a disastrous tour of Europe to play to crowds of half a dozen people in dungeon like venues in the Czech Republic, but undaunted they carry on. Lipps is so optimistic, so undefeatable in pursuit of his dream that he automatically wins you over. He says things like, “The tour was a disaster, but at least their was a tour for a disaster to take place on.” Robb Reiner is so steadfast and loyal to his crazy frontman that you automatically want his loyalty to pay off.
The director Sacha Gervasi was a fan of the group in their heyday and he lovingly takes us past the heavy metal stereotypes (although he’s not afraid to make light of them) to portray two guys that seem worthy of being called artists, if not for their music, but for their dedication to their craft. This could have just been a movie about aging rockers, but instead it’s a film about the pain and the joy in pursuing a dream—any dream.
Anvil! The Story of Anvil is rapidly disappearing from theaters here in L.A., so I imagine it might be hard to find in other parts of the country, but take my word for it, when this is available on video it’s worth checking out. If you love music, documentary, or just banging your head, this is for you.