TV Film review: Meat Loaf: To Hell and Back (2000), directed by Jim McBride
It just so happened that True Movies were showing this film in the run up to us going to see Meat Loaf in concert, so I thought it would be an excellent way of getting into the spirit of things by watching this.
The reviews on IMDb are pretty good, even if several point out inaccuracies between real life and events depicted in this made-for-TV film.
Surprisingly enough, no one seems to want to call attention to the poor direction, disjointed story, dreadful script and shoddy acting. But let’s start by talking about the plot.
We begin by seeing a boy, Meat (Jona Kai Jacobsen), bullied by both his drunken father (Kim Robillard) and his schoolmates for the terrible “crime” of being overweight. “A fat kid will never amount to anything” is basically his father’s attitude. Meat’s kind-hearted mother (Lisa Jane Persky) has cancer.
Cut a few years, Meat’s playing American football, and his parents come to see him play. Cut again, Meat’s on stage doing a Shakespearean monologue, his dad shows up and looks to the “your mum died” effect are exchanged. Funeral. Then there’s an argument and Meat goes off on his own, joins the cast of Hair, eventually makes it onto the set of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, while trying to get a record deal with songwriter friend Jim Steinman (Zachary Throne). He meets Leslie (Dedee Pfeiffer), and marries her. Then there’s an album, career trouble, money troulbe, and finally, finally he has a number one. And all the while he’s trying so hard to prove himself to the world, that he isn’t just that fat kid from Texas who won’t amount to anything.
To be honest, if you’re interested in the man known as Meat Loaf, go buy To Hell and Back the book, on which this TV film is mean to be based. I’m sure it would be a much better use of your time. In fact, I seem to recall watching at least part of a documentary about his career once, and that was a lot better too, because this film is a mess. It means well, but it’s a mess.
Now, W Earl Brown, who plays Meat Loaf, is a great singer – unless I’m mistaken and it’s not actually him singing. He’s having fun playing Meat Loaf on stage, by all accounts, and he’s not too dissimilar looks-wise either.
But the general level of acting among the cast is uninspiring to say the least. It’s as if the director hasn’t even bothered to give them pointers, and they’re just saying the lines as they were written on paper. It just isn’t very good. I’m sorry, but I really don’t care for it. That it fits neatly into the category of bad TV movies was obvious from the get-go as well, but never mind …
At least the music is great, and there are many of the greatest hits in there. I’d just rather be watching the real thing. Which I will be this weekend, and am ever so slightly giddy with excitement.
2 out of 5 rejection notices (I would’ve given it a 1, but it gets +1 for the music)