March 12th, 2022
MOVIE: DIO: DREAMERS NEVER DIE
STARRING: RONNIE JAMES DIO, JACK BLACK, ROB HALFORD, LITA FORD
DIRECTED BY: DON ARGOTT, DEMIAN FENTON
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 2 ½ STARS (Out of 4)
2021 set the bar high for music documentaries. There was Summer of Soul, the Billie Eilish doc, and Todd Haynes gave the world a full covered doc on The Velvet Underground. It’s safe to say 2022 might not top those three, but it was a nice start with Dio: Dreamers Never Die, which captures the full career of legendary heavy metal singer Ronnie James Dio. The question always lingers on if a documentary is deserving of the subject matter, but much like the spirit of who Dio was, this is a life story that can’t be held back. Directors Don Argott and Demian Fenton give the singer total coverage, both as a person, an artist, and the impact he has left on the industry. By the end it becomes more than evident that Dio is an important figure in music- whether you like his tunes is up to you- but what can’t be denied is that Dio will rock long into the great dark night.
For myself, I had only learned about Dio from my interest in Jack Black’s rocking duo Tenacious D, where in the track- appropriately titled “Dio”, Black himself claims, “Dio has rocked…for a long, long, time”. It was brief but equal to getting a slice of rock education, where after hearing that, the name Dio became synonymous with the music genre. That’s how an interest in things works, where next thing you know you’re listening to “Holy Diver”, and know why Dio has made an impact with his unmistakable vocal power. My interest in the rocker was more or less limited to that initial introduction, but when you leave a mark the way Ronnie James Dio has done, his music will last an eternity. His life now has been given the full-throated career documentary and it proves that he lived a life more than worthy of being cemented among the greatest of musicians.
Originally born Ronald James Padavona, it’s the early career of Dio that is surprising, where his upbringing in his Italian family started with crooning tunes like Sinatra or Frankie Valli, but what was instantly evident was that he had a voice unlike any. Growing up in New Hampshire, he started in a group called Ronnie and the Ramblers, but as his interests turned to rock, Dio started the group Elf. They would be the opening act for Deep Purple and that connection between the two bands led to the creation of the group Rainbow. At that point Dio was more than a known vocalist and his pipes would eventually replace Ozzy Osbourne as the lead singer in Black Sabbath. No matter where he was doing it, Dio was on the stage, and he created his own band- named Dio- which kept him rocking till his untimely death from stomach cancer in 2010.
As a documentary, Dio: Dreamers Never Die is hindered by the fact that it does the standard procedure that other documentaries do, which is talking heads, and a point by point track through Dio’s life. That’s not always a bad thing but it does reduce an interesting life to a Wikipedia-style biography, taking us through the points of a person’s life that could be elevated more emotionally. There are interesting details, especially the moments in Dio’s life that involve multiple tragedies, including a car accident that left his friend dead, and Dio badly injured. There’s also a hilarious amount of time spent on Dio inventing the sign of the devil, which is quite an awesome feather in his cap, but not enough time spent on the actual music. For a nearly two-hour documentary, it’s the conventional path that limits the details, and the impact Dio has left.
It’s not that Dio: Dreamers Never Die isn’t worth your time, especially because for me I was able to find out so much more about Dio I never knew. His voice is one of a kind, and it’s sad that his work hasn’t resulted in more rock hits, or more artists to follow in his footsteps. He’s certainly worthy of having a documentary about him and maybe a biopic on Ronnie James Dio is something that deserves to be made. He’s an artist that didn’t get the attention he deserved when he was with us and now that he’s gone new audiences are finally discovering him. That’s not a surprise. You can’t keep a powerful voice like Dio down. No matter what, he will be rocking for a long, long time. Throw the devil horns up for him one more time and say his name. Long live Dio.
DIO: DREAMERS NEVER DIE WAS PART OF SXSW 2022
2 ½ STARS
Written by: Leo Brady