As teenagers, Steve “Lips” Kudlow and Robb Reiner started a heavy metal band in Canada. Anvil influenced a whole generation of rebellious rockers. So why do we remember Metallica, Anthrax, Guns ‘N’ Roses, and Slayer, but Anvil has slipped into obscurity? “Anvil! The Story of Anvil” The film premiered at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival, and got a theatrical release earlier this year to much acclaim from music and film lovers alike. The film’s director, British screenwriter Sacha Gervasi (“The Terminal,” “The Big Tease”), brings plenty of humor to the story of these persistent, if unknown, rockers. Today, “Anvil” gets released onto DVD.
Owen Gleiberman, in Entertainment Weekly, makes the unavoidable comparison in his review. “It’s become a rock cliché to say that heavy metal stars are acting like something out of ”a real-life Spinal Tap.” So let’s get this out of the way: Anvil! The Story of Anvil really is the real-life Spinal Tap. It’s a hilarious, and unexpectedly moving, documentary about the greatest metal band you’ve probably never heard of — Anvil, a crew of Canadian headbangers who came up in the demon-thrash ’80s and were potent and original enough to influence the style and sound of Anthrax, Metallica, and Megadeth. We see the band in footage from a 1984 Japan stadium show, and yes, they’re pretty great.”
The A.V. Club‘s Noel Murray finds the moral of the story in the two bandmates’ friendship. “Yet in his despair, there’s something Kudlow misses, and it’s what makes Anvil! as moving as it is hilarious. If adult life is about working hard so we can afford to do what we want, then what’s the word for a group of musicians who’ve toured the world for three decades, making music for appreciative fans? Maybe… ‘success’?”
Regarding the film’s subjects, Robert Ebert says, “The wives are loyal but not optimistic. The rockers are good family men. They were apparently spared the heavy metal plague of heavy drugs, although there is a little weed in one shot.” He continues, “I don’t know if their music is any good. Their fans think so. The doc doesn’t show one song all the way through. But they swore a pledge when they were 14, and they’re still honoring it, and at 51, Lips knows he still has it and that Anvil will be back on the charts.”
Writing for Canada’s Globe and Mail, Liam Lacey calls the film a probable cult classic and concludes, “‘Anvil: The True Story of Anvil’ is only 80 minutes long, but it packs a lifetime worth of drama, setbacks and especially friendship into its brief running time.” In Slate, Dana Stevens attempts to find something wrong with the film, “The director, Sacha Gervasi, is a fan first and a documentarian second. If Anvil! has a flaw, it’s that it’s too enthusiastic, a reverently uncritical valentine to the director’s adolescent heroes.”