BREAKING A MONSTER chronicles the break-out year of the band UNLOCKING THE TRUTH, following 13-year-old members Alec Atkins, Malcolm Brickhouse and Jarad Dawkins as they first encounter stardom and the music industry, transcending childhood to become the rock stars they always dreamed of being. The music in it is good, probably better for people into metal, but the movie suffers a bit as the trio often appears uninterested in the ins and outs of the developing career they have been working toward.
The movie opens with home movies from 2010 and 2011 showing off their early talents. Malcolm and Jarad formed their band at an early age, when they were only 4, due to mutual musical interests. Alec joined later and was taught partially by Malcolm and Jarad. It then shows some of their early street performances, which were filmed by passersby and uploaded to YouTube. The band went “viral” and soon after, they caught the attention of a manager who got them signed to a 1.8 million dollar record deal with Sony Music and caught national attention, including television news, performances, and commercials.
I will be honest, Unlocking the Truth may have garnered national attention, but I had never heard of them before this movie; it did not help that I am not a fan of heavy metal. Aside from brief research for this review, this movie did not make me want to start regularly banging my head. While there is some interesting behind-the-scenes moments in this movie, some scenes are more cringe worthy than interesting or funny; like the scene where the boys are questioning where the money is and one says “we’re only making 1.8 million for how many…” That conversation doesn’t fully clear up, at least for the audience, why the boys weren’t getting a huge sum of money immediately; which I think is something people might want to know if they have dreams of fame.
At one point in the movie, their manager tells them they need to present an image that is likeable, and I didn’t really get that in this documentary. When the boys do focus on their career, they are impatient about the process; signing the contract, recording the music, or “when are we going to get a record”; but you can tell they love their music. Other times, they seem spoiled and self-centered and just want to be normal pre-teen boys, playing games like Grand Theft Auto, skateboarding or biking, defying their manager, or lacking interest when shopping with their mother.
The film ends abruptly and a little internet research reveals a potential reason. Apparently, though not surprisingly, after this film was made, the trio left Sony and had legal trouble getting the music they had made for their first intended album. Breaking a Monster kind of serves as a cautionary tale about getting swept up in “instant” fame, which would have been more poignant if the detail about their troubles was included. The film ends with the band performing another gig, ready to go back to school, having yet to put out an album that is still one of five on the way.
Check it out if you have an interest in heavy metal or the band themselves. On some level, people might sympathize with the boys and find their initial journey emotionally engaging. At the very least, you will get to see them perform a few times.