Mighty Wind. Warner
Bros. presents a film directed by Christopher Guest. Written
by Guest and Eugene Levy. Running time: 92 minutes. Rated
PG-13 (for sex-related humor). Starring
Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, Harry Shearer, Eugene
Levy, Catherine O'Hara, Bob Balaban, Jane Lynch, Parker
Posey, Larry Miller, Fred Willard.
you think of mockumentaries (parodies of traditional documentaries),
the first name to come up is Christopher Guest. He co-wrote
and co-starred in This is Spinal Tap, the best and
most famous entry into the genre, and he has directed two
of his own (Waiting for Guffman and Best in Show).
His latest film, A Mighty Wind, falls somewhere between
his previous two efforts; it's not as good Waiting for
Guffman, but better than Best in Show.
a cue from This is Spinal Tap, Guest has elected to
focus A Mighty Wind on the musical industry. But instead
of heavy metal, A Mighty Wind deals with folk music.
Despite the rather obscure nature of the folk genre, A
Mighty Wind is very much like Guest's other films in that
a familiarity with the topic at hand is certainly not necessary
to fully enjoy the film. The nature of the film is such that
both fans and non-fans of folk music will appreciate the movie
main plotline of A Mighty Wind deals with a tribute
concert to the recently deceased music producer, Irving Steinbloom.
Organized by his son, Bob Balaban, the concert is a reunion
of three once-popular folk music bands. The three acts are
The Folksmen (Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, Harry Shearer),
who have only had one big hit; Mitch and Micky (Eugene Levy,
Catherine O'Hara); and The New Main Street Singers, a group
of nine who appear righteous and God-fearing, but are actually
a group of color-worshipping witches. The film is split into
interview segments with the bands (many of which were clearly
improvised - but in a good way) and documentary-style footage
of the bands getting ready for the show.
of the performers in A Mighty Wind are veterans to
Christopher Guest productions, and for good reason. Each one
of them is very funny. Guest, McKean, and Shearer, together
for the first time since Spinal Tap, share excellent
chemistry - it is very easy to believe that these three are
a real band - and they are each exceptional improvisors. Only
a few of the Main Street Singers have major parts, but the
ones who do are excellent. The best segments in the film belong
to SCTV alums Levy and O'Hara. The supporting players,
including Bob Balaban and Fred Willard, round out the ensemble
folk songs presented during the film, much like the heavy
metal songs in Spinal Tap, are true to the source.
They do poke fun at the genre, but never go over the top.
The songs, written and sung by members of the cast, hold up
very well on their own, and are no worse than any other folk
song. And the tribute concert, when it finally does occur,
feels genuine - very much like any tribute concert you could
see on PBS.
of Guest's films have all had two major things in common.
The humor, of course, but also believable and sympathetic
characters. The film's screenplay (only Guest and Levy are
given official SAG writing credit, but it is clear that other
cast members played roles as well) develops the characters
into people we grow to care about over the rather short running
length. Surprisingly, the concert climax is actually quite
who appreciates the style of humor present in Guest's films
will find plenty to like in A Mighty Wind, while those
who laugh hardest at dumb gross-out comedies are recommended
to stay away. The laughs come often, even if they are not
always large belly-laughs. I found myself at least chuckling
throughout much of the film, making it a much more even experience
than Best in Show. The movie is slightly uneven, but
it is still superior to most of the so-called "comedies"
being forced upon us these days.
2003 Matt Noller