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Force Majeure

Little fights turn into big fights when couples use their emotions as weapons —Marty Mapes (review...)

An avalanche is a Force Majeure

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Starting with the title, and continuing all the way to its perfect Spinal-Tap ending, Anvil: the Story of Anvil is hilarious.

Lips ponders the fate of Anvil
Lips ponders the fate of Anvil

Anvil, as I learned, is a heavy metal band from the earliest days of the genre. The documentary opens with footage of them rocking the house at a stadium in Japan in the early 1980s, and playing with other just-starting-out groups like Poison and metallica.

Robb and Lips discuss the fate of Anvil
Robb and Lips discuss the fate of Anvil

Intercut with their glorious beginnings are their inglorious present selves. Lead guitar and vocalist “Lips” Kudlow and drummer Robb Reiner are still friends living in the same town in Canada. Lips now delivers meals to old folks’ homes and Robb is shown busting up concrete. They still play, but they can’t really get work playing anymore.

Filmmaker Sacha Gervasi follows them around Canada and the world as they try to make a comeback, first by touring, then by recording a new album, and then by touring again. Along the way they are beset by the same sorts of troubles as Spinal Tap. They trust their tour to a groupie who means well lacks the teeth to get things done. They play at venues with almost no attendance. There’s even a vicious falling-out between the bandmates that threatens to end their life-long friendship.

In contrast to the music he loves, Lips is a gentle and lovable soul. He’s sensitive, emotional, and very low-key. His ambitions are so much bigger than his success that one might be tempted to write him off as a loser, except that he has such a great attitude that you can’t help but love him and root for him.

There are 3 or 4 laugh-out-loud, too-good-to-be-true scenes that make Anvil a rival of This is Spinal Tap. In Spinal Tap, Nigel shows us his other artistic outlets by playing a decent-sounding solo piano piece, a blend of Bach and Mozart called “Lick My Love Pump.” In Anvil, Rob shows us his paintings... decent looking landscapes done by a competent hand... and then he shows us his masterpiece, a realistically textured painting of an unflushed toilet.

Sometimes Anvil is so good that I think someone was pulling my leg. Their falling-out is devastating. Lips and Robb have a midnight fight that will surely spell the end of Anvil. Lips storms out of the recording studio’s bungalow, and the camera sticks with Robb in one of those pour-your-heart-out scenes of intimacy that you get in a documentary or reality show. Mid-confession, Lips barges back in from off-screen in a completely unexpected emotional outburst, screaming reconciliations at Robb.

And what are the chances that the drummer would be called Robb Reiner, the same name (spelled differently) of the director of This is Spinal Tap? Surely Anvil must be a carefully crafted homage to Spinal Tap.

Then again, they say life is stranger than fiction. Or in Anvil’s case, exactly as strange as. Whatever it is, Anvil: The Story of Anvil is great entertainment. It has comedy, drama, unforgettable characters, good music, and an underdog story as good as any sports movie. Don’t miss Anvil, and see it with a crowd when it comes to a theater near you.

  • Adam Vant: Excellent review! This movie is funny, sad, touching, painful, and all too real. Not only one of the best documentaries I have seen, it's one of the best movies I have seen. A great cinematic achievement. August 2, 2009 reply