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Picks and Pans Review: Meat Loaf: to Hell and Back

updated 07/24/2000 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/24/2000 01:00AM

VH1 (Wed., July 26, 9 p.m. ET)

The 1977 Bat out of Hell album hasn't taken off yet, and Meat Loaf (born Marvin Lee Aday) still lacks recognition. Starved for a compliment—but otherwise well-fed, it appears—the Meaty One (played by W. Earl Brown) gladly receives a favorable review from his little girl. "I like it," she says of his music. "It's loud."

Director Jim McBride (maker of Jerry Lee Lewis's screen biography, Great Balls of Fire!) pumps up the volume through most of this TV movie, as Meat Loaf fights with his alcoholic father, wails over his mother's coffin, tours with the stage musical Hair, performs the "explosive Wagnerian anthems" composed for him by Jim Steinman (Zachary Throne) and nearly loses himself in booze, lawsuits and depression. To Hell and Back, based on Meat Loaf's 1999 memoir, offers sufficient evidence that raging emotions give rise to roaring rock. But the protagonist has an oversize insecurity that makes watching his life story feel more than a little like a stint in purgatory.

Bottom Line: Too long in the oven

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