Pizza for me has always been synonymous with fun. Nowadays, it’s pizza and beer. Thenadays, it was pizza and weird fuckin’ animatronic creatures singing songs, making jokes and scaring the crap out of all the wimpy kids. And I know I’m not alone on this. For those of us fortunate enough to be children in the 80s, we had Showbiz Pizza restaurants spread throughout the country, stocked with all of the latest videogames and an animatronic band called The Rock-afire Explosion. The 80s were a long time ago – godamnit – but filmmaker Brett Whitcomb has reached back in time and brought forward a chunk of our past that has helped reignite interest in this band that would play the perfect soundtrack for pizza munching. A trailer for the documentary “The Rock-afire Explosion” hit YouTube a little while back and has had people talking all over the Web. And just recently the film has hit the festival circuit. So does it live up to its hype? If you remember and love The Rock-afire Explosion from your youth, then, yes.
This documentary cuts back and forth between two stories, or rather, it cuts back and forth bewteen two periods of time in the life of The Rock-afire Explosion. Yes, there is a ton of vintage footage for nostalgia freaks to drool over, accompanied by interview footage of Rock-afire creator Aaron Fechter who lays down the history of this animatronic band. But then we also see where Rock-afire is at today and it’s not the cheeriest of pictures as we see that Fechter was driven out of business and his creation made nearly extinct, however, the light at the end of the tunnel is a group of lifelong fans who still devote themselves to the Rock-afire Explosion, including one such fan – Chris Thrash – who saved up a load of cash to purchase his own complete Rock-afire Explosion show which he operates at this home, often for lucky families who bring their children to bask in the wonder. And watching these kids freak out, it’s all too apparent that The Rock-afire still has that magic. Thrash is also the one that videotaped his band’s performances playing to more modern music and posted his clips to YouTube. It’s these clips that really rekindled interest in The Rock-afire.
We learn a great deal about our pizza parlor heroes, as well as the people that created them and the people that are doing their best to keep them alive. All in all, it’s a pretty marvelous celebration of passion and fun, especially if you love docs about obsessive fans. Obsessive people have been the cornerstone of some great – okay, highly amusing – documentary filmmaking. This film adds to that heap of fun.