A feel-good road movie about a fan trying to meet Lars of Metallica.
It took a couple of years but the documentary MISSION TO LARS is finally out on DVD in North America. It has recently been released by RavenBanner, the good people who also released METALHEAD and DEATHGASM, and they are a cool distributor in my opinion…it there is such a thing as a cool distributor!
The DVD is decent, no booklet but it does come with a few bonus features, the most interesting being a 30 minute interview with Lars Ulrich, where the interviewer, the main character of the film, returns a couple of years later and interviews Lars about the film. Please note: This review has spoilers.
The plot is simple enough. A journalist from London, England (Sue) and her brother try to reconcile with their brother Tom, who suffers from Fragile X a type of autism. The focus of his obsession is meeting Lars Ulrich of Metallica. They embark on a road journey to fulfill his dream. They fly to the US, rent an RV and follow the band on the Death Magnetic tour fro three shows, trying to meet Lars. Tom’s handicap prevents that from happening due to the nature of his condition which increases anxiety exponentially, especially being out of his familiar routine. He almost backs out on a number of occasions due to his internal discomfort. About meeting his hero. Of course, they do finally meet Lars backstage, in a protracted ‘hurrry up and wait’ scene to build dramatic tension. Lars is gracious, sincere and friendly and gives Tom the fan experience of a lifetime.
MISSION TO LARS has a real slice of Americana, the out-of-water Brits, traveling across the South-West in an RV following the band. There is lots of gorgeous road footage and the pace is leisurely and, for a road movie it is quite calm, which juxtaposes nicely with the frantic activity of a Metallica show. The whole film is much more calm than I predicted, which made the film, not boring, but very mellow, moreso than I expected. The soundtrack is pretty mellow, with an original score, but the filmmakers must have made some of this in conjunction with the bands management because they licensed the bands music in the film for a few scenes.
My only minor complaint is that the marketing and presentation made the quest to meet Lars more difficult than it really was. Despite their sheer size as an organization, Metallica is quite accessible but the marketing people choose to manufacture this conflict for dramatic tension. When you view the movie it doesn’t come across that way. The main character, Sue, phones up Metallica, asks if her brother can meet the band and right away they said ‘Yes’. It wasn’t as hard as the marketing made it out to be. The Spicer family seems unsure what to expect, it is as if big bad Metal is completely foreign to them, but as Metallica fans would know, OF COURSE, Lars is going to agree to meet the guy! Lars is the poster-boy for being the spokesman for being a nice guy in Metal. They (Metallica) do stuff for fans all the time. So it wasn’t really surprising. I’d be shocked if Tom didn’t meet Lars!
I liked MISSION TO LARS, all 80 minutes of it, and even though I felt it was a bit over-rated, it was a pleasant, feel-good doc that shows the more human side of Metal and METALLICA specifically, to a broader audience. Your Mom will like this.
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