Friday, April 18
While it doesn't quite reach the blissfully inspired heights of "Best in Show" or "Waiting for Guffman", Christopher Guest's latest nevertheless makes a worthy addition to his canon of brilliantly improvised mockumentaries.
A spot-on parody of '60s folk music and its acoustically leaning purveyors, "A Mighty Wind" also functions as something of a "This Is Spinal Tap" reunion, with Harry Shearer
joining ensemble regulars Guest and Michael McKean
to form the Folksmen, a Kingston Trio-esque outfit who get back together three decades later along with other groups for a PBS-style concert special.
Fans of the previous Guest pictures will no doubt rise to the occasion, though, with folk music admittedly not carrying the contemporary commercial appeal of, say, competitive canines, "Wind" will probably be doing a serious chunk of its business on DVD.
Determined to organize a fitting tribute to his late folk-artist-manager father, the fastidious Jonathan Steinbloom (Bob Balaban
) teams with Public Broadcasting Network executive Lars Olfen (Ed Begley Jr.) to put on a show featuring his dad's most popular acts.
Filling the bill, in addition to the above-mentioned Folksmen, would be the excruciatingly sunny New Main Street Singers (think the New Christy Minstrels or The New Seekers
) and Mitch & Mickey (Eugene Levy
and Catherine O'Hara), a romantic duo clearly inspired by Canadian folkies Ian & Sylvia.
That's the plan, anyway. But while the Folksmen's Alan Barrows (Guest), basso Mark Shubb (Shearer) and Jerry Palter (McKean) survived the '60s relatively intact, the same can't be said for poor Mitch Cohen
, who had been doing an extended sanitarium gig prior to finding out whether or not he and his former wife (now married to a catheter salesman and model train enthusiast played by Jim Piddock
) can conjure up any of the old magic.
The New Main Street Singers, meanwhile, were known as the Main Street Singers until all but one of their original members (Paul Dooley
's George Menschell) died. The "neuftet" is now fronted by Terry Bohner John Michael Higgins
) and his lovely wife Laurie (Jane Lynch
), who in their spare time are deeply immersed in a religion guided by the power of colors.
Will the show go on?
Only Guest and Levy, who again share scripting duties, know for sure, while their dream ensemble come up with their own winning lines.
While the satirical element is again very finely tuned, Guest clearly has a great deal of affection for the music and the musicians, which translates into a kinder, gentler brand of parody. There's even a moment in the film, provided by O'Hara and Levy, that's downright touching.
Not that there's any shortfall in the laughter department. In addition to those already cited, Fred Willard
, who practically stole "Best in Show" as an outrageous commentator, turns up here as a spiky-haired comic-turned-talent manager whose questionable claim to fame involves coining dumb catchphrases like "Wha' happened?"
And the always welcome Jennifer Coolidge
puts in a couple of too brief but memorable turns as half of a public relations team (the other is played by Larry Miller) who speaks with a vague European accent and whose offhanded observation about model trains is a comedy keeper.
So are the pitch-perfect songs. Not since "Nashville" has a cast done such a good job of providing their own tunes, especially the irresistibly hokey "Old Joe's Place" (penned by Guest, Shearer and McKean) and O'Hara's destined-to-be-immortal "The Catheter Song".
A MIGHTY WIND
Warner Bros. Pictures
A Castle Rock Entertainment presentation
Director: Christopher Guest
Screenwriters: Christopher Guest, Eugene Levy
Producer: Karen Murphy
Director of photography: Arlene Donnelly
Production designer: Joseph T. Garrity
Editor: Robert Leighton
Costume designer: Durinda Wood
Music producer: Jeffrey CJ Vanston
Jonathan Steinbloom: Bob Balaban
Lars Olfen: Ed Begley Jr.
Amber Cole: Jennifer Coolidge
Terry Bohner: John Michael Higgins
Lawrence F Turpin: Michael Hitchcock
Mitch Cohen: Eugene Levy
Laurie Bohner: Jane Lynch
Jerry Palter: Michael McKean
Wally Fenton: Larry Miller
Mickey Devlin Crabbe: Catherine O'Hara
Sissy Knox: Parker Posey
Mark Shubb: Harry Shearer
Naomi Steinbloom: Deborah Theaker
Mike LaFontaine: Fred Willard
George Menschell: Paul Dooley
Leonard Crabbe: Jim Piddock
Running time -- 92 minutes
MPAA rating: PG-13