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Review: 'Nickelback: Hate to Love' Documentary Is Fun and Informative But Not Piercing

'Nobody picks up a guitar to be in the most hated band in the world,' founding member Ryan Peake said.

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'Nickelback: Hate to Love' is a fun watch, but don't expect a detailed explanation of why the band is so broadly loathed.

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Hate to Love: Nickelback is an intimate documentary which tells the story of a widely known but poorly understood band.

It's worth a watch, especially for any Nickelback superfans. The archival footage and off-the-cuff stories chronicling the group's long career are entertaining and informative.

But does the film answer the question laid out in the trailer: Why do people hate Nickelback so much? Kind of, but not in a satisfying way. It seems like the filmmakers were too beholden to the band to address the topic fully.

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Source: MEGA

The documentary premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2023.

The documentary starts and ends in Hanna, Alberta – the tiny rural town where Nickelback formed in 1995.

Hanna's economy is mostly based around energy and agriculture. In the film, the founding members of the band come off as people who could have been farmers or oil rig workers in another life.

"It's honestly a hope as an Albertan to know that people can make it, that people can follow their dreams," one fan said during an interview outside of a Nickelback concert. "These aren't guys that got big and famous and changed."

At the peak of Nickelback's popularity, cultural elites viewed the group as an egregiously commercial replacement for the more countercultural grunge bands of the early 1990s.

It makes sense that a band from a place like Hanna wouldn't be as steeped in subversive politics as Kurt Cobain or Eddie Vedder, but the film only briefly explores that disconnect and how it impacted the way Nickelback was received by many serious rock fans.

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The movie does cover how the band's massive chart success made it an easy target.

Guitarist Ryan Peake recalled a phrase he saw scribbled on the wall of a venue during Nickelback's early touring days: "You be nice to us on the way up, we'll be nice to you on the way down." The band simply never came down.

The vitriol was exacerbated by the rise of the internet and its cruel meme culture, which became more common as Nickelback's ubiquity peaked. The hate had an impact on all of the band members and even extended to some of their children, who endured bullying in school.

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Fans around the world will be able to watch the movie in theaters for the first time later this month.

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Hate to Love does a particularly strong job of humanizing Chad Kroeger, who appeared to field the most hostility.

"I don't have an identity without this band," the frontman said, which is why he was virtually unable to escape the hate during the band's commercial peak.

But the film doesn't dive into any of his or the rest of the band's shortcomings.

There's one brief section where the musicians are asked about some of the band's more questionable lyrics. Chad's bassist brother Mike Kroeger admits that some of the tracks are "vacuous," but adds that this is what many of the fans want to hear.

That may be true, but some Nickelback lyrics are more than just vacuous. The song "S.E.X." is outright concerning.

"No is a dirty word, never gonna say it first," Chad sings. "Yes, sex is always the answer. It's never a question 'cause the answer's yes."

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Those lyrics certainly came from a bad place, but the frontman doesn't come off as a bad guy in the documentary. He seems crass and unpredictable but also loyal and sweet. That appears to be the kind of impression Nickelback wanted to make with Hate to Love.

After all, as Peake said: "Nobody picks up a guitar to be in the most hated band in the world."

The documentary will premiere in theaters worldwide on Wednesday, March 27 and Saturday, March 30. Check out the film's website for more information.


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