By Bill Adams
Over the years, lots of jokes have been made at Ozzy Osbourne’s expense, but it’s sort of understandable because so many things the singer has done are unbelievable. This is a man who has gone no fewer than forty–two rounds with professional rock n’ roll – often bare–knuckled – and while he’s been knocked down and has the scars to prove it, he just keeps getting up; nothing – not booze, not drugs, not excess, not success, not shifting of popular tastes – keeps him down for long. That kind of stature and resilience commands respect. It’s also a story which begs telling and that’s where God Bless Ozzy Osbourne comes in; for 135 minutes, this film tells the story of the beginning, the rise, the success, the excess, the triumph and the establishment of the institution that has become Ozzy Osbourne.
Of course, because Ozzy’s story has been told so often over the years, parts of the film (like the first half hour, which deals with the evolution of Black Sabbath and how Ozzy came to be the singer of the band, him eventually leaving the band, breaking down, signing with CBS Records and biting the head off a dove in a conference room) become a bit static due to repetitive recounting – one can only hear the same story before it’s possible to recite it by rote – but at around the twenty–five minute mark (when Ozzy’s children from his first marriage are introduced) when things begin to get interesting; at the twenty–five minute mark, drugs and alcohol and their presence in Ozzy’s life begin to come into better focus too.
It does seem important to concede that, in the Sixties, drugs and rock n’ roll were the twin taboos. This is addressed a bit prior to this point in the run-time, but the impression they leave starts to change at this point. Black Sabbath fell prey to cocaine and alcohol – nothing was more responsible for the demise of the band than that pair of influences. Certainly at least some fans have been aware of this for decades, but the way it’s presented in this documentary feels like a revelation; suddenly, everything becomes clear after that.
That sort of revelatory feeling quickly becomes the reoccurring form in God Bless Ozzy Osbourne, and it never gets old at any point in this run-time. Here, viewers are regularly offered bits of information that they could recite by rote because they’ve heard them so often, but then there are fantastic little things appended which seem phenomenal; like how quickly Ozzy actually bounced back after the demise of Sabbath and how prolific he became with Randy Rhodes. With Rhodes at his side, Osbourne released two classic albums in less than a year after the end Black Sabbath; people looking at any timeline could know that, but spelled out as it is here feels incredible. Seeing that is unbelievable, as is the brief discussion Ozzy enters into regarding the death of Randy Rhodes – but the depths to which the rough times descended were nothing short of superhuman – as were his substance intake levels.
Eventually (after superhuman tales of excess), Sharon Osbourne is the one who puts forth the theory that the excesses which Ozzy Osbourne has indulged through the lion’s share of his career may have much to do with both the singer’s sense of loss. Through the late Seventies and early Eighties, Ozzy Osbourne lost Black Sabbath, lost his first wife, lost his first kids and lost Randy Rhoads; Sharon’s theory is that he’d already seen that everything had an end, so he wanted to be feeling good when his came.
That’s a heavy statement to make but it is understandable. What isn’t understandable (and this always seems to happen with “The Story Of Ozzy Osbourne”) is the sudden jump in time of about six years which sees viewers arrive at the beginning of the Zakk Wilde era of Ozzy’s band in 1988. That would be a great place to pick up the chronology, but the story doesn’t exactly resume; in fact, it gets even more disjointed on God Bless…. It’s at this point that viewers are treated to footage of Ozzy returning to the scheme where he grew up in Birmingham with no particular explanation or direction other than to seemingly bring the proceedings full circle and begin trying to sew up a few loose ends, eventually arriving at some semblance of a conclusion. It’s a rocky conclusion which sort of stumbles its way through Osbourne finally choosing to sober up after his son Jack, and ending at present day with the singer sober now for five years. In that end comes the obligatory feelgood sentiment from Kelly Osbourne, saying that her father walks a different, prouder line these days and it’s evident in everything he does.
That sounds contrived and like a soft option ending after the story having gone through the way it did, but it’s not the easiest story to end because it isn’t over. Conventional endings can’t work because Ozzy Osbourne isn’t dead. Because it can’t end mortally, God Bless Ozzy Osbourne ends the only way it can: openly, with no real end at all – other than Ozzy Osbourne making the token gesture of finally getting his driver’s license. It seems like a small, inconsequential thing but, after seeing the craziness encapsulated in this footage, seeing something simple and universal like that is gratifying, somehow. That doesn’t mean God Bless Ozzy Osbourne is the single greatest film and it doesn’t mean that there aren’t obvious flaws in it, but it is certainly entertaining, and imminently watchable.
(Eagle Rock/Eagle Vision)
Bill Adams is editor in chief of groundcontrolmag.com