If you want to know what the cool kids are watching this weekend…
Well, white suburbanite teens with a taste for heavy metal, if nobody else, should go all “School of Rock” over this seriously transgressive high school comedy called “Metal Lords.”
It’s “post death/doom metal” served with a side of cheese, and it’s laugh-out-loud funny.
What cheese would pass muster as “metal” with the headbangers? Something English — Black Bomber, Tesyn or maybe Stinking Bishop?
The idea is to take on the assorted cliches of such comedies and see if they can be upended or least turned inside-out here and there. That’s a recipe for hit-or-miss, but as I say, I laughed.
Dweeby Kevin (Jaeden Martell of “It,” “Knives Out” and TV’s “Defending Jacob”) has two qualifications for being in the start-up band named Skullf–ker. He plays a snare drum in Glenwood Valley High’s marching band, and he’s best friends with long-haired fellow misfit and metalhead Hunter (screen newcomer Adrian Greensmith).
Rich kid Hunter — his dad’s a plastic surgeon — will sacrifice everything and spend any amount –of his dad’s money — to achieve heavy metal glory.
“If we dedicate ourselves to metal we will OWN this school!”
But a hapless drummer and a would-be shredder doth not a metal band make, right? Well, aside from Darkthrone, Hate Forest, et al.
And while Hunter can shred like a Malmsteen in the making, Kevin, in marching band “just to get out of PE,” is utterly lost behind that Peart/Bonham sized drum kit. They need some competent “bottom,” a bass player.
Enter the medicated Scottish lass (Isis Hainsworth, a hoot) whose anti-clarinet meltdown in the middle of marching band practice is the most “metal” thing in the movie. That’s not Emily’s instrument. The cello is. She is, of course, destined to make Skullf–ker coed.
Director Peter Sollett, musically as far afield as one can get from “Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist,” and “Game of Thrones” creator and writer D.B. Weiss do their damnedest to avoid getting around to the obvious.
Kevin’s Kumbaya misfit mantra, “Why can’t we all not fit in together?” must be ignored. There’s teen drunkenness and carnal knowledge and betrayal and drugs and rehab and everybody uses Scottish Emily’s favorite c-word.
Yeah, “School of Rock” meets “Game of Thrones,” that’s what they were going for. Not that they get there in any sort of explicit sense. But it’s still funny.
As genre cliches go, it’s OK to let the bully be the biggest jerk among the jocks. But why not have the rich-kid insipid pop band leader Clay (Noah Urrea) turn out to be nice, and not just their hated “Battle of the Bands” rival? Why not have his band’s drummer into drugs, prompting both genuine concern for his health from Clay, and a tug of war over Kevin’s services?
Because Hunter’s assigned homework to his pal — Black Sabbath, Pantera, Judas Priest — is quick to pay off. Kevin/Martell looks at home behind the kit, and if these kids aren’t playing their own instruments, they’re close enough for rock’n roll, at least as it’s served up in a Netflix movie.
Stay through the closing credits to see what I mean, “War Pigs.”
There are shots at Hunter’s “metal,” rebellion and Dungeons & Dragons lifestyle from his sneering single dad (Brett Gelman). “Incel action figures” may be the funniest description of D & D ever.
The sexism the guitarist displays at how “completely gay” the idea of a girl joining their band is opens him up to ridicule for the hilariously homoerotic imagery in heavy metal posters, album covers, makeup and stage attire.
And if you’re going to have a tipsy hallucination moment-of-conscience in a hot tub with a hottie, who better to advise you than Rob Halford (Judas Priest), Tom Morello (Rage Against the Machine), Scott Ian (Anthrax) or Kirk Hammett (Metallica)?
It doesn’t all work and doesn’t entirely come together. And metal isn’t everybody’s cup of tinnitus. But throw enough Netflix money at it and you get thoroughbred credits (check out Joe Manganiello in the third act) in front of and behind the camera and a cheerful “Let’s flip-off the parents” attitude.
Which is about as “metal” as this streaming service gets.
Rating: R for language throughout, sexual references, nudity, and drug/alcohol use – all involving teens
Cast: Jaeden Martell, Isis Hainsworth, Adrian Greensmith, Sufe Bradshaw, Brett Gelman and Joe Manganiello.
Credits: Directed by Peter Sollett, scripted by D.B. Weiss. A Netflix release.
Running time: 1:38