Air Guitar Nation (2007)
Starring: David S. Jung, Dan Crane, Gordon Hintz, Zac Munro
Directed by: Alexandra Lipsitz
Despite the fact that the man himself can be grating at times, I have to give credit where it’s due to Michael Moore for helping popularize documentary features. The box office success of his films helped open the door to many documentaries, and helped cultivate the idea that non-fiction films need not only be informative or important, but can also serve as straight up entertainment. It’s with that idea that a movie like Air Guitar Nation can exist.
Air Guitar Nation follows the inaugural U.S. Air Guitar Championship, profiling David S. Jung (AKA, C. Diddy) and Dan Crane (AKA, Björn Türoque) in their attempts to go to the Air Guitar World Championships in Finland, held annually since 1996. Yes, that’s right, air guitar. World Championships. If you can’t wrap your mind around the ridiculous awesomeness that entails right now, then there’s probably not much fun for you to be had with this documentary.
For the rest of us, I’ll tell you that it’s one of the more purely fun movies I’ve watched all year. The good news is that the contestants are all in on the joke to a degree, in the sense that they don’t take themselves or this “sport” too seriously. Thus, we’re laughing with them while we’re laughing at them. But, as the film progresses and more performances are shown, an interesting thing happens: you start to get wrapped up in the performances and root for the characters, putting aside for a moment how silly it all is (while revelling in it alongside them).
As a documentary, Alexandra Lipsitz‘s film is pretty bare bones, presented in an unfortunate (albeit understandable) 1.37:1 aspect ratio with little gimmickry or innovation. It’s mostly a series of performances, backstage footage, and talking heads. But Lipsitz does a good job in ingratiating her stars (Jung especially, who comes off as an affable dude who happens to have an unusual hobby), introducing them to us in and out of character, and allowing them to be the stars, rather than try and dominate the film with trickery. By the end, I was even able to enjoy it unironically, such was the goodwill and showmanship built up throughout the 81 minute running time.
With the popularity of things like karaoke and Guitar Hero, the amount of people pretending to be rock stars is at all-time high. If you count yourself as someone who has fun doing those things, you’ll probably have fun watching this too.