Shot in five weeks, Bruce David Klein's fawning backstage documentary chronicles the rocky beginning of 1970s sensation Meat Loaf's ambitious 2007 tour in support of his album Bat Out of Hell III: The Monster Is Loose. But a surprisingly unvarnished picture of the performed emerges despite Klein's uncritical approach.
Feb. 17, 2007: Meat Loaf (born Marvin Lee Aday), 59, and his band begin rehearsals in Burbank, Calif., for an 18-month tour under the direction of longtime bassist and music director Kasim Sulton, who's known "Meat" for 30 years. Both Meat Loaf and his once richly melodramatic voice are thinner than they used to be. He limps noticeably offstage but has committed to the kind of theatrical show he put on in his twenties, including the show stopping "Paradise by the Dashboard Light," a self-contained mini-rock opera steeped in teenage lust and adult remorse. But Paradise becomes the tour's thorniest problem. The first shows are in Canada, and the eighth is being shot for DVD; sales are strong and reviews are good… except for the Paradise segment. Critics consistently find it creepy and distasteful -- one characterizes Meat Loaf as a "child molester." Twenty-eight year old singer Aspen Miller, the song's teenage tease, sighs, "I look like I'm 12 years old, making out with my grandpa." Will Meat Loaf agree to change the staging before the DVD shoot?
"How glamorous is this," Meat Loaf asks Klein in an anonymous backstage hallway. "My baggie with my wheat thins in it?" Pal Dennis Quaid, shooting a movie in Winnipeg, stops by for a backstage chat and stays to perform "Gloria" that night, but mostly the tour is a slog from show to promotional appearances to backstage tinkering before the next show. Meat Loaf comes off as a joyless perfectionist, but doesn't take it out on the band or staff; he blocks
Klein's access to family and friends, and discussion of his contentious relationship with composer/producer Jim Steinmann, who wrote Meat Loaf's hits, is conspicuous by its absence. The singer is frankly self-critical and discontented on camera – he's not out to make himself look good. A snapshot rather than a sustained look at Meat Loaf's tumultuous life and career, Klein's film is a revealing glimpse at the late career of a performer who looked a safe bet to die before he got old, then surprised everyone by hanging on long enough to find fans who weren't born when he started out. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh