The Austin Chronicle

It Might Get Loud

Rated PG, 97 min. Directed by Davis Guggenheim.

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Sept. 11, 2009

It's a testament to how far White Striper Jack White has come in the rock & roll world since the release of the first White Stripes album 10 years back that he's now the most interesting figure in this musical triptych, which also includes geezers Jimmy Page (sporting some wicked white locks) and U2's the Edge (coif unknown). Ostensibly, this is a meeting-of-the-minds/generations for the hard-rock set that was captured in HD by Oscar-winner Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth). The film's very title is a tease, however: It never gets all that loud, and you might doze off after 30 minutes of watching this unwieldy power trio recount their formative years and visit old haunts before heading on to a soundstage for their minimum rock & roll "summit." Guggenheim is clearly a fan of all three fretboard geniuses on display here – who isn't? – but there's no discernible point to the whole yawny shebang. Page's career with Led Zeppelin has been covered to death and beyond in book (Hammer of the Gods) and film (The Song Remains the Same) form, the Edge is only genuinely engrossing when he's wielding his own chiming Mjøllnir, which leaves Tennessee's roots-rock squawker White to pick up the edutainment slack. He does so admirably, too, appearing to be both intensely serious about his lo-fi, monaural masterpieces while simultaneously coming across as a sly upender of rock & roll's longtime tradition of electronic overkill. No million-dollar racks of effects pedals for him; White is first seen as a remarkable simulacrum of Son House as MacGyver, cobbling together a bass-ackwards but remarkably functional gee-tar from scratch. Compared with the Edge's massively tech-heavy, riverside Dublin recording studio/hideaway, both White's digs and rusty barbed-wire chords sound positively primal. Guggenheim's sojourns into the Edge's world – among them fan-friendly stops at the high school where he first espied future U2 drummer Larry Mullen's band advertisement and the site of U2's first-ever gig (in a field, fittingly) – make up much of what there is of the narrative backbone of It Might Get Loud, while Page plays English squire to the pair. Noodling ensues. Even as a portrait of the art form, which includes a young, middle-aged, and old man, this strange, backward-looking pseudo-hybrid of MTV Unplugged and Cribs is strictly for those unlucky enough (or too young) to have never caught any of the three represented bands plucking their way through an off-kilter, preshow sound check. When it comes to dealing in volume, here's a tip from Motörhead's Lemmy Kilmister that future rock docs would be well-advised to heed: "Everything louder than everything else" ensures no sleep 'til Hammersmith.

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