Foo Fighters: Back and Forth: Film Review

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Standard career-retro doc ends in long plug for the band's new album.

As it winds through the surprisingly quick success Dave Grohl's band has enjoyed, the otherwise standard-issue rockumentary is almost distractingly polite about roster changes since the band's debut.

AUSTIN — A standard-issue rockumentary culminating in an extended promo for the subjects' new album, Foo Fighters: Back and Forth offers a clean chronology but only meager revelations for the die-hard fans who will turn out for a one-day theatrical release (to be paired with a 3D concert broadcast) on April 5 following its South by Southwest debut.

More casual followers who stumble across it on VH1 (April 8) may appreciate its clean, no-pretense approach: Speaking only to current and past band members (and to the studio star, Butch Vig, who has sometimes lent them his talents) director James Moll combines friendly talking-heads footage with ample vintage performance clips and stills to connect the dots.

Starting as it should, with an efficient summary of the success Nevermind brought Nirvana and how Kurt Cobain's suicide ended that run, the doc not only conjures the "what now?" crisis faced by drummer Dave Grohl, but points out that all the other musicians he would soon recruit for his new band came from bands whose careers ended prematurely -- former Germs guitarist and Nirvana member Pat Smear; Sunny Day Real Estate refugees William Goldsmith and Nate Mendel.

As it winds through the surprisingly quick success Grohl's Foo Fighters enjoyed, the movie is almost distractingly polite about the roster changes the band has endured since its debut. The most interesting things get is when drummer Goldsmith is edged out of the group by Grohl, who sings and plays guitar for Foo Fighters, but was still enough of a rhythm-section man to feel, as he recalls here, "I know what the drums should sound like." Grohl re-recorded all the drum parts covertly after the initial sessions for "The Colour and the Shape," and soon Goldsmith was an ex-Fighter.

Whatever ego clashes happened at the time, both men (and others who have come and gone) keep an even keel onscreen. While the absence of bitterness or soul-searching may be good for their mental health, it gets a little stale for viewers after an hour and a half.

The staleness factor is hardly helped by a long section about the now-megagroup's booking at Wembley Stadium in 2008, or by the disproportionate amount of screen time devoted to the recording of this year's Wasting Light. The record's stripped-down, family-friendly production (recorded to tape, not digital, in the singer's retrofitted garage) may invite happy home-movie clips of backyard cookouts and pool parties, but its musical-insight factor is awfully low.

Opens: April 5 (Cinedigm)
Production Company: Spitfire Pictures
Director: James Moll
Producers: Nigel Sinclair, James Moll
Executive Producers: Jeanne Elfant Festa, Glen Zipper, Michelle Farinola, John Silva, Gaby Skolnek, John Cutcliffe, Alex Brunner, Chris Miller
Director of photography: Harris Done
Editor: Tim Calandrello
No rating, 100 minutes

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