A MIGHTY WIND (2003)
Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, Catherine O'Hara, Harry Shearer,
Eugene Levy, Fred Willard, Parker Posey, Jane Lynch, John Michael
Higgins, Jim Piddock, Paul Dooley, Bob Balaban, Paul Benedict, Ed Begley
Jr., Larry Miller, Jennifer Coolidge, Diane Baker, Jim Moret, Stuart
Luce and Mary Gross.
Christopher Guest & Eugene Levy.
Distributed by Warner Brothers Pictures. 94 minutes. Rated
This film should have been hysterical. It had all the right ingredients.
It is created by some of the most intelligent comic actors around, people
who have honed their craft in three of the funniest movies of the last
twenty years (This
is Spinal Tap, Waiting For Guffman
and Best In Show).
It takes an idea that seems to be ripe for satire
folk music. The
characters of the Folksmen have been performed be Michael McKean,
Christopher Guest and Harry Shearer since the
days. The artists not only have a great love for the musical genre, they
have a substantial talent for it. Many of the songs performed here really
could have been hits during the sixties folk boom.
So why does
A Mighty Wind
feel so lifeless? It is amusing, but
never nearly as hysterical as the films that preceded it. One hint of the
problem lies in the songs themselves. They are authentic, they are tuneful,
but they are not particularly funny. The lyrics that they wrote for
(or even Guffman)
took the clichés of the form and ratcheted them up to absurd levels. The
problem is, the heavy metal songs punctured in the earlier film were about
sex and partying made giddily naughty. The folk songs in
A Mighty Wind
well, diners, trains, kissing, flowers and stuff like that.
These are fine, upstanding, Americana-laced subjects, but they arent going
to elicit guffaws.
So, instead, the film has to try to wring laughs out of
unexceptional and tired ideas like the folk singers have gotten old and PBS
(Im sorry, its PBN here, so it must be a different network!) is out of
touch with the kids. This film is a mock documentary about a reunion
concert tribute to a late folk icon. At least one of the three groups here
could have been dropped, though, because they just get in each others
Particularly overlooked is the core group. The Folksmen are never
given enough time for you to get much of a handle on them, other than they
are wistful about their ages, somewhat snobbish about commercial music and
have strange personal grooming choices. Way too much time is spent on the
New Main Street Singers, a band of younger singers in sweater uniforms,
apparently based on the New Christy Minstrels. Now, not to question their
intents or anything, but how many people are going to get New Christy
Minstrel jokes in 2003?
The final group has the potential of greater
interest. Eugene Levy and Catherine OHara play Mitch and Mickey, singing
sweethearts who havent spoken since an ugly break-up. Now, Mickey is a
bored housewife and Mitch is a somewhat addle-minded genius in the Brian
Wilson mode. But again, they are not given enough time or detail to breathe
and the storyline just never lives up to its promise. Come to think of it,
I guess you could say that about this entire film.
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July 21, 2003.