Seldom as a film critic have I felt this guilty.
I received a screener copy of "Anvil! The Story of Anvil" about a week before the film was due to arrive at Keystone Art Cinema in Indianapolis. As is true for most anyone, sometimes life simply gets away from you and, in this case, I found myself struggling to complete the review on time for the film's arthouse opening.
"Ah, don't worry about it," I thought to myself. "The film's getting great reviews and audiences will love it. I've got time to get it done," I concluded.
Then, suddenly, "Anvil" was gone a week later from Indianapolis theatres.
Are you crazy, Indianapolis?
How could you let this happen?
Because, while I may not have gotten MY review done in time, there were other local film critics telling you the same thing I'm telling you now..."Anvil! The Story of Anvil" is a darn fine film, reminiscent of the wildly successful cult hit, "This is Spinal Tap."
For those who don't know, Anvil is a Canadian heavy metal band and, likely, the biggest and best heavy metal band you've likely never heard of before.
Anvil had one semi-successful album in the mid 80's, "Metal on Metal." As is true for many other musicians, their seeming path to success was sabotaged by bad management, bad record labels and just plain bad luck.
Unlike other acts, however, Anvil has never quit performing. Despite never achieving more than modest chart and touring success, Anvil has been together for 30 years now under the leadership of lead guitarist Steve "Lipps" Kudlow and drummer Robb Reiner. "Anvil! The Story of Anvil" follows the band on a rather disastrous European tour and an attempt at a comeback album produced by Chris Tsangarides.
I was reminded during my viewing of this film about one of my earliest rock interviews when I first became an entertainment writer. I was charged with interview David "Tufty" Clough, of local punk legends Toxic Reasons. As a longtime fan of punk rock, I found my excited by the interview and only slightly concerned with Tufty's reputation for being a bit gruff.
After all, I'd already interviewed oddball comic Emo Phillips. Surely I could handle a gruff punk rocker?
As the interview progressed, I found myself discovering a rather remarkable humanity in Tufty and, even to his surprise, found myself focusing the interview and article that followed on life as a parent for a punk musician. The article that resulted revealed a different side of the punk rock experience.
"Anvil! The Story of Anvil," directed by Sacha Gervasi (screenwriter of "The Terminal"), takes a similar approach in examining the sometimes ridiculous, sometimes quite touching lives of Kudlow, Reiner and Anvil. Gervasi, a longtime fan of the band, wisely avoids staging the goings on and allows the band to come of "as is," from the almost stereotypical heavy metal silliness to surprisingly centered and grounded family men with spouses and children.
"Anvil! The Story of Anvil" is funny, poignant, tender and remarkably affirming of spending one's life chasing a dream that, to everyone on the outside, has little or no chance of ever being realized.
Seriously. These heavy metal rockers are in their early 50's now. Are they going to top the heavy metal charts?
They sure think so.
The rockers have loyal spouses and, in turn, the rockers now work daytime jobs to ensure family and financial stability. Do the spouses have much hope for their husband's dreams? It would seem not, but they're practically the picture perfect example of supportive spouses along for the musical journey.
So, here I am.
I'm feeling guilty.
My review is late and, as a result, you missed a golden opportunity to see an inspiring, entertaining and downright funny documentary with heart.
You may not see it in theatres, but when "Anvil! The Story of Anvil" hits home video you'll be doing yourself a favor if you check it out.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic