If you're anything like me, you know that This is Spinal Tap is one of the greatest movies ever made. It is the perfect satire of a topic so self-important that it begs for satirization: rock stardom. Steven Tyler of Aerosmith has admitted weeping for days when he first saw Spinal Tap because it so accurately portrayed his life.
Ever since that film, there has been any number of rockers who have inadvertently attempted to create their own version of This is Spinal Tap. Only Metallica has succeeded.
Metallica is the perfect band for such a project. They are, all at once, self-important, stupid and incredibly boring. There is something about large headed, Danish dwarf, Lars Ulrich and monosyballic drunkard James Hetfield that literally begs to be made fun of. And they unintentionally did it to themselves. To think that they spent three million dollars of their own money doing so makes it all the more perfect.
In early 2001, Metallica were not getting along with one another. Tensions in the band were such that simpleton bassist Jason Newstead quit rather than spend another minute in the same room with Hetfield and Ulrich. Racially indeterminate guitarist Kirk Hammett kept his mouth shut, secure in the knowledge that even the obnoxiousness of his partners is better than wearing a paper hat for a living.
When three musicians find it impossible to speak civilly to one another, it logically follows that they should have a film crew recording the proceedings for posterity. After all, what could go wrong? It worked out so well for the Beatles. So, with film crew in tow, Metallica set up camp at the San Francisco Presidio military base to begin recording their new album.
As you might imagine, renting your own military base from the United States government can get pricey. Film crews are also not famous for paying for themselves, either. Metallica prepared for the event by not writing a single song in advance. This leads to barely in tune riffery as the musicians stare blankly at one another. Tension and unproductive, expensive exercises usually leads to people doing two things, drinking and fighting. Metallica does both for a time.
In what may be the ultimate example of rock star self-indulgence, Metallica hired their very own psychotherapist. If you, like me, have ever wondered what stupidity sent to therapy looks like, wait no longer. Some Kind of Monster is the movie for you. That the band and their management seemingly confused retarded self-indulgence with mental illness makes for an even better film.
Ulrich confronts the band's demons by constantly changing his hairstyle. His enormous head is differently coiffed no fewer than 14 times over the course of two hours and twenty minutes.
Metallica paid $40,000 a month to retain their therapist. This may be the wisest investment of your entertainment dollar in show business history. Watching developmentally challenged rockers get in touch with their feelings is hilarious.
Then Hetfield decided that he is a world class alcoholic. Oddly enough, the rest of the world reached this conclusion in 1986. Hetfield then goes to rehab for 11 months. Metallica is left without a songwriter. Sure, everyone pitches in to help write empty-headed lyrics for the poorly conceived music, but no one can achieve the simple-mindedned blathering that Hetfield has turned into an art form.
In Hetfield's absence, Ulrich decides that his quest to be his own best friend will remain incomplete unless he apologizes to those he has wronged in the past. This leads to a highly amusing conversation with former singer/guitarist Dave Mustaine. Mustaine was fired in 1983 for being, simply put, far too stupid to be in Metallica. Being told that you're too stupid for Metallica must be like being kicked out of the Manson family for "being weird." But the spectacle of two egotistical, untalented rock gods getting in touch with one another's inner child is worth the price of the DVD alone.
There is one universal truth about alcoholics. That is that when they quit drinking they become fantastic assholes. Hetfield is no exception. Upon his return, Hetfield makes ridiculous demands, including the band only work between noon and four PM.
Here's an experiment; go to your job today and tell your boss that you need a year off because you are too pickled to perform even the most routine tasks. Then, assuming that you have a job to come back to, inform them that you can only work for four hours a day. Furthermore, if the company decides to do anything at all in your absence, you will bitch and cry. If you still have a job, you might just be a rock star without knowing it.
The completion of of drug and alcohol treatment also leads to another fascinating phenomenon, the patient becomes a rehab junkie. Simply put, one addiction is traded for another. As addicts are generally oral personalities, the bottle is removed from the alcoholic's mouth and is replaced with mindless platitudes. Combine this with the pre-existing condition of stupidity and ongoing group therapy, and Hetfield becomes an unbearable prick. And that is no longer mitigated by the chance that you'll get to find him in a pool of his own urine and vomit.
Obviously, this makes the working relationship even more difficult.
Finally, Ulrich cannot take it any longer and takes all two and a half feet of himself to New York where he gets drunk and sells very unsightly paintings for pornographic amounts of money. We also learn that Ulrich is married to an Amazon. Did I mention that Lars Ulrich is very short?
As the movie goes on (and on, and on), Metallica rediscovers the joy of making unexciting music together and they go on to complete a truly unlistenable album. All they need now is a new bassist. One of the criteria is that their new bandmate not only be as learning challenged as they, he must also look stupid. In the previously anonymous Rob Trujillo, they find their man.
One would think that they live happily ever after at this point, but that would overlook Metallica's quest for insipid melodrama. They then proceed to go to war with their therapist who is reluctant to go away. That this could have been accomplished by withholding the doctor's 40 grand a month escapes the band's notice.
Unfortunately, the therapy ends before the fact that Metallica hasn't done anything worthwhile since 1988 is addressed.
The movie closes with Metallica shooting a video at San Quentin prison. Before performing for the prisoners, Hetfield explains how the power of music kept him from joining them in incarceration. The regret that the prisoners will never have the opportunity to rape Hetfield in the shower is written on their tattooed tear faces.
If you're looking to see what AA and group therapy can do for you, then Some Kind of Monster is the movie for you. It may be the most unintentionally funny movie not starring Ben Affleck of 2004. Its beauty lies in its stupidity. The mathematics are simple; lots of money minus talent and social skills plus a film crew equals comedy gold.
In short, I don't regret for a second paying thirty bucks for Some Kind of Monster.
Oh, I also bought no fewer than five Seymore Butts films last night. Perhaps I'll review them later in the week, if for no other reason than I love saying "Seymore Butts."