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A Mighty Wind

:: As reviewed for

A Mighty Wind is the latest from the creative minds of Christopher Guest and Eugene Levy, and follows the same formula as Guest’s previous satires, Waiting for Guffman and Best In Show: a mock documentary skewing one small niche of pop culture. This time it’s folk music, and follows the organization and presentation of a reunion show of three legendary 60s folk groups: The Folksmen, Mitch and Mickey, and The Main Street Singers. The reunion concert is produced by Jonathan Steimbloom, son of Irving Steinbloom, the legendary folk music impresario who discovered and managed these three groups, in honour of his passing. We watch as Jonathan contacts each group and convinces them to come aboard for the concert. The bands reunite and begin rehearsals, although The Main Street Singers have endured with numerous roster changes throughout the decades.

None of Guest’s films have made me laugh out loud throughout, and this is no exception. It’s more of a gentle smile. Guest brings together the same repertory group of actors, including Levy, Michael McKean, Harry Shearer, Parker Posey, Ed Begley Jr, Don Lake, Larry Miller, Fred Willard, Catherine O’Hara, and Bob Balaban.

Some of the reviews have said that the film doesn’t take a detailed enough look at the rise of folk music, leaving out too much of the history. This didn’t bother me, as it wasn’t the point of the film. Did Waiting for Guffman recall the history of theatre? Guest and Levy aren’t bashing the Woody Guthrie/Pete Seeger schools of folk music, but rather, the sometimes bland and often boring and bleached three chord muzak of ensemble groups with squeaky-clean images such as the Back Porch Majority, the New Christy Minstrels, or the Serendipity Singers, and trios and duos not unlike Peter, Paul and Mary, or the Kingston Trio. Hootenanies and banjos, anyone? (Aside: the first single my parents bought for me when I was a kid was “Don’t Let The Rain Come Down“, by the New Serendipity Singers, so I do bow in their general direction, nonetheless…) Even then, I didn’t feel the film had any sense of meanness to it any more than did the grandaddy of these spoofs, Spinal Tap. If anything, the film evokes melancholy and nostalgia, with a few groans of deja vu. Not unlike the rival bands who despised each other in Spinal Tap, here we learn that The Folksmen consider The Main Street Singers to be worthy of playing Branson, Missouri, and little else, and are furious with them when they open the show with a Folksmen number.

It must be noted that The Folksmen, the acoustic sister of Spinal Tap, features the same three Tap actors and musicians: Shearer, McKean and Guest. Also of note: The Folksmen first appeared on Saturday Night Live in 1986, shortly after Spinal Tap, and then disappeared from the landscape for quite a while, resurfacing a year or two ago as an opening act for a few Spinal Tap shows. (Imagine the makeup artists backstage working overtime!)

The characters played by Levy (Mitch) and Willard (manager of The Main Street Singers) grated on my nerves, especially Willard. I’m somewhat weary of his repetetive persona, the lighthearted goof who consistently cracks really bad, offensive jokes and has no idea that others perceive him as a complete moron. I was also disappointed that The Folksmen didn’t sing their ode to train wrecks, Blood on the Coal. (To read the lyrics to this great tune, click on The Folksmen’s pic on the movie web site, choose the album “Pickin’“, read the lyrics and listen to 15 seconds of the song, which is thankfully included in the OST.)

In retrospect, I hoped for more from Guest – the film moves slowly, which admittedly is part of its charm, but it detracted from my enjoyment. And I wanted MUCH more of The Folksmen – their original bit on SNL in the 80s drew more laughs from me than any single segment of the film in which they appeared.

The production information package is available here.

2 Responses to “A Mighty Wind”

  1. Stephen Says:

    Again – the whole family was LOL at Mighty Wind. Both kids asked if folk music was really like that . . . Ths movie really is the Spinal Tap for Folkies!

    X’Men was great too. Didn’t you just love the Smurfette does Dallas character again? I am true blue.


  2. randy Says:

    Yes, it was Spinal Tap for the granola set. Well done, a gentle smile, as I described it. The Nightcrawler was a good character in X2 – a fun film all around, never took itself too seriously. Now Matrix Reloaded, however…

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