A fly-on-the-wall doc about some has-been Canadian metal band called Anvil? That’s got to be a piss-take? Surprisingly, it isn’t. Staggeringly, it not only has all the laughs of ‘This Is Spinal Tap’, but its portrait of frayed fiftysomethings putting sanity on the line to live the rock ’n’ roll dream proves a touching, even inspirational fable for our times. Back in 1984, Anvil toured Japan with Bon Jovi and Whitesnake. Today, notwithstanding Metallica’s Lars Ulrich lauding their stripped-down style as a formative influence, the band’s stalwart frontman Steve ‘Lips’ Kudlow and drummer Robb Reiner (!) are holding down manual jobs and playing local Toronto bars, where they still give it everything – even if ‘Lips’ admits he closes his eyes and imagines stadium crowds. An unexpected offer of a European festival tour lifts them off rock-bottom, but the reality turns out to be far from glamorous.
Since the schedule takes them to a shed in Transylvania via sundry shoebox-scaled clubs, hilarious real-life absurdities pile up, yet the movie’s never scornful of the band’s hapless antics and constant in-fighting. Instead its seamless construction and alert observation allows us to take the punches with them, understanding that Lips’s undying devotion to rock has meant a lifetime of sacrifices and stress for his nearest and dearest, all of which only adds to the pressure to give it all up when fortunes take yet another nosedive. Frankly, the guy’s a hero in any musical language, and he deserves this heartfelt, emotive, supremely entertaining tribute. Anvil! We salute you!