Air Guitar, also known as the trademark gimmick from the goofy Bill & Ted movies, has been sweeping the world for nearly a decade. There is, surprisingly, an Air Guitar World Championship held every year in Finland. The 2003 East Coast tryouts at the Pussycat Lounge in New York City quickly sold out. Fake air-strumming rock stars have appeared on CNN and several late-night TV shows. It is an up-and-coming phenomenon, so, outside of something we do in our living rooms when nobody is watching, why have we never heard about all this before?
Director Alexandra Lipsitz aims to shed light on the underground craze with her debut documentary, Air Guitar Nation. Air guitar is pretty much what it sounds like—a bizarre form of performance art, requiring the pseudo guitar player to pretend he or she is rocking out on an instrument that is not really there. And while it’s no surprise that people may find this enjoyable to do, it does come as a shock how enjoyable it is to watch.
Air Guitar Nation is such a silly, lighthearted romp that you start off laughing at it and, before long, you’re wondering where the next competition is so that you can check it out for yourself. The documentary, shot in 2003 as a self-proclaimed labor of love for all involved, focuses on a handful of really interesting competitors, which keeps the topic from ever becoming a repetitive yawn.
The “star” of the film—and, incidentally, one of the greatest air guitarists in the world—is David Jung, known on stage as C-Diddy. Equipped in a flowing red cape and a Hello Kitty pouch upon his bare chest, he wins over crowds with his Jim Carrey-esque expressions and knack for wild improv skills (aided by his background in acting and comedy, which initially shattered the dreams his parents had of him becoming a doctor or lawyer…sorry, folks.)
His East Coast rival is Dan Crane, aka Bjorn Turoque, a guy with a rock star-style and commanding stage presence who just can’t seem to make his dreams of becoming “the [No. 1] ambassador of air” happen.
The surprising thing about Air Guitar Nation, besides the fact that the MPAA slapped something this harmless with an R rating, is that there really is some skill involved. It’s one of those things that everyone thinks they can excel at, but when you see how precise and inventive these people are, it becomes clear that it’s not as easy as it looks. The judges in Finland acknowledge its technical trickiness, which explains why the 60-second sets are judged like figure skating on a 4.0-6.0 scale.
In short, while this is not the next great, life-changing movie, it is a wildly foolish flick that takes the best elements of stand-up comedy and mixes them with good, old-fashioned rock ‘n’ roll. Plus, the students in Finland who started the World Championship did it with peace in mind, since “you can’t hold a gun if you’re holding an air guitar.” All they're saying is give peace a chance—and, likewise, do the same for the breezy 78-minute Air Guitar Nation.