No bats were harmed during the making of “God Bless Ozzy Osbourne.” But the mythic metal rocker’s various indiscretions involving small animals and large quantities of drugs are all part of this rather affectionate and candid portrait of a singer/TV personality whose continuing respiration is regarded as a marvel of human achievement. Fans will respond enthusiastically; nonfans will grow restless as Osbourne’s late-inning sobriety is dwelt upon at length. Theatrical play seems a long shot, but VOD’s a no-brainer.A charter member of rock’s Hall of Fame of Self-Destruction, and a founding member of the occult-oriented Black Sabbath, Osbourne is better known to later generations as star of the MTV reality hit “The Osbournes” — which, viewers will not be shocked to learn, found Osbourne at the nadir of his alchohol and drug dependencies. One of the fascinating aspects of “God Bless Ozzy Osbourne” is its catalogue of the substances and quantities Osbourne consumed, starting when Black Sabbath premiered in 1970; one never gets the sense that anyone’s exaggerating. Where those piles of coke and pills took him was, on occasion, too disgusting to describe here, but to the credit of helmers Mike Fleiss and Mike Piscitelli (and producer Jack Osbourne, Ozzy’s son), the movie never shrinks from the unsavory. Of course it’s never done any damage to the Osbourne brand to have its central character portrayed as a wastrel of epic appetites, so the pic can’t exactly be viewed as an expose or a parable: Osbourne has done quite well for himself despite the narcotic haze in which he’s operated, so there’s hardly a cautionary tale at work here. Osbourne isn’t harboring any illusions about himself. He admits to his failings, and even exhibits what might be described as chagrin. Born into the lower classes in Birmingham, England, Osbourne is a classic case of someone who had very little to lose, and his career as an exhibitionist rock star provided a way out of poverty. His influence as a musician has been considerable, at least according to the people who testify to it, including surprise Ozzy fan Paul McCartney. But most of those talking heads also have something startling to offer about Osbourne’s baroque personal history, including wife Sharon Osbourne, who reminisces about the night her husband tried to kill her. (He was arrested, and later remembered nothing about the attack, just as he can’t remember the year his daughter, Jessica, was born.) The filmmakers have tremendous access to Osbourne, following him to his home, on tour, into his dressing room and into his past. Most of the footage seems unrehearsed and impromptu, except perhaps for a shot late in the film when the rehabilitated rocker, readying for a show, closes his dressing-room door and falls to his knees in prayer. If there hadn’t been a camera crew in there, it would have been a very revealing moment. Tech credits are adequate.
A Mike Fleiss and Jack Osbourne presentation of an NZK/Schweet production. Produced by Jack Osbourne, Marc Weingarten, Jordan Tappis. Executive producer, Sharon Osbourne. Co-producer, Rich Fox. Directed by Mike Fleiss, Mike Piscitelli.
Camera (color), Piscitelli; editor, Rich Fox; music, Mike Einziger; sound, Bryan Parker, Matt Slivinski; re-recording mixer, Conner Moore; associate producer, Youssef Bauhousis. Reviewed at Tribeca Film Festival (Spotlight), April 25, 2011. Running time: 91 MIN.
Ozzy Osbourne, Sharon Osbourne, Paul McCartney, Henry Rollins, John Frusciante, Bill Ward, Terry Butler, Robert Trujillo, Tommy Lee.