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A Mighty Wind (2003)

  Directed by: Christopher Guest
Written by: Christopher Guest, Eugene Levy
Starring: Christopher Guest, John Michael Higgins, Eugene Levy, Jane Lynch, Michael McKean, Catherine O'Hara, Jim Piddock, Parker Posey, Harry Shearer
Links: A Mighty Wind on the IMDb, Official site, Buy the Soundtrack, Buy on Video, Buy on DVD
Genre: Comedy

This movie gets: 8.00 (3 ratings)
nofreelist.com Ranking: Ranked equal 53rd of 187 movies (2 ratings minimum; see full chart)

A Mighty Wind (2003) is also mentioned in mino's review of Best in Show (2000), mino's review of This is Spinal Tap (1984) and mino's review of Waiting for Guffman (1996).

"Guest's stars" - a review by mino

There's just something oh-so-special about the gentle parody in the faux-documentaries made by Christopher Guest and his crazy gang of cohorts. They really are like no other movies. They poke fun, but they do it in such a genuinely affectionate way that it's totally impossible to consider them cruel or spiteful. Despite the fact that they are, ultimately, rather light comedies, so much time is spent developing incredibly complex, likeable characters that you find yourself getting more involved in the characters' lives than you do with most period dramas or ‘arthouse’ character pieces.

Dating back to This is Spinal Tap (1984) (not technically in the same group as the later movies, since Guest didn't direct, but obviously very similar), no troupe of actors has ever produced such a consistently clever, well-made set of comedies which, while doing what they do very well, do a bunch of things they're not trying to do better than most movies that are.

A Mighty Wind opens with a newscast of the death of Irving Steinbloom, a folk-music concert promoter. His son, Jonathan (Bob Balaban), rounds up three of his father's old acts to do a tribute concert, and the hilarity starts. Much as you'd expect, there's no real plot, but just a rambling series of interviews, songs, and insight into the preparations for the big night. Obviously, the humour here will appeal to certain segments of the movie-going public — most Adam Sandler fans probably shouldn't bother — but the many different types of comedy on offer here all hit their mark in a big way. Spinal Tap-esque visual gags, comic folk songs, puns, hilarious characters both outrageous and subtle, and some fantastic improvised absurdity — they all work, and while you're unlikely to be rolling on the floor in hysterics (well… maybe once or twice), it's certainly one of the funnier comedies I've seen of late.

The obvious comparison to be drawn is to Spinal Tap, because of the musical theme; however, I would say that the Guest film of which I was most reminded was Waiting for Guffman (1996). The characters are the same types of lovable buffoons, in many ways, and the collision of the different types of humour is very similar.

While (like all of these movies) Wind has many outstanding features, there are two which stand out: the cast (as always), and the songs. The songs are fantastic, and tread a very clever line of being funny, but not ridiculous: while there are some lines in there that are very funny indeed, they are also ‘serious’ enough to stand on their own as songs, and really get your feet tapping and have you whistling/humming/singing along.

Though it's hard to pick standouts from the cast, there are a few worthy of mention. Eugene Levy is absolutely brilliant as ‘Mitch’, one half of ex-duo Mitch and Mickey, who is, it's fair to say, not in the best of mental health. Levy is absolutely superb, and the odd interplay between Mitch and Catherine O'Hara's Mickey as they prepare for their comeback is not just funny, but a genuinely moving and emotional story which is better than half the crap out there in ‘real’ relationship dramas. Fred Willard shines in the minor role of the manager of one of the bands, a washed-up sitcom star who really has no idea how unfunny he is, which makes him in turn tremendously funny. A great straight (well… semi-straight) man is to be found in the younger Steinbloom, who is absolutely cringe-worthy in his stupidity, but is played masterfully straight by Balaban.

A Mighty Wind is everything you'd expect from one of the Guest gang's movies, and while it's a little slower and slightly thinner on the jokes than, say, Guffman or Best in Show (2000), it's certainly worth a look. Oh, and one other thing: be sure to catch the extras on the DVD. The deleted scenes, in particular, are great — it was definitely pacing, not the lack of gags, that kept them out of the feature proper.

mino gives this movie 8 out of 10.
Review created on Fri 20 Feb 2004

"HEY WHA HAPPAN!?!" - a review by andy-j

Christopher Guest is doing stuff that no-one else in Hollywood is doing - making movies with no real script - he just throws actors into a scene, gives them a general idea of where things have to go and let them improvise. Then he edits the best bits into a film. The results, as seen in Waiting for Guffman (1996), Best in Show (2000), and now, A Mighty Wind, are brilliant. You get some great lines from the characters, some very true-to-life mannerisms (stumbling of speech, long pauses, etc) and a helluva lot of subtleties.

A Mighty Wind is a comedy in the form of a documentary, focusing on a memorial concert for the late Irving Steinbloom, a legend in the folk music world who brought us such fine folk groups as the Main Street Singers, Mitch and Mickey and the Folksmen. We meet the members of all three of these bands - the very commercial nine-member group the Main Street Singers, with their hilariously unfunny manager played by Fred Willard, the rather serious Folksmen - Mark (Harry Shearer), Jerry (Michael McKean) and Alan (Christopher Guest), and Mitch and Mickey (Eugene Levy and Catherine O'Hara). We go behind the scenes as the groups hastily prepare for their performance, and observe the stumbling blocks and issues that they have to iron out. At the same time, we learn a little about each group's history, and about the band members themselves. While this is all happening, we see Steinbloom's son, who is organising the concert, trying to control everything and going to great lengths to worry about everything he can possibly worry about. In the vein of Guest's two other films, we finally get to witness the Big Event, then get a look-in on the main players six months later.

I love this style of movie - it doesn't spell things out for you - it instead allows you to pick things up through observation. Much like Guest's other movies, there is a whole different level of things going on that you mightn't latch onto at first. It adds to the humour, deepens the characters and makes for a more intelligent film. A Mighty Wind, though, seems to be fairly light in some of these areas. It certainly is a lot gentler to its characters - they aren't ridiculed nearly as much as those in Guest's previous efforts. Unfortunately, this provides for fewer laughs. It feels that the characters are so "normal" that the humour is even more subtle to the point that it's barely there. Maybe this is just because Guest wanted the focus to be on other things. In any case, I think there are some golden opportunities missed - Mickey's rather dull husband Leonard (played by Jim Piddock) being a good example. Then again, there are some great moments and characters - the funniest undoubtedly are Todd Leibmann (Fred Willard), Jonathan Steinbloom (Bob Balaban) and Amber Cole (Jennifer Coolidge, who stands out despite being on-screen for only a few minutes). Jane Lynch and John Michael Higgins, who play two of the New Main Street Singers, should also be mentioned - they are wonderful as a slighty-freaky couple.

A definite highlight of A Mighty Wind are the fantastic musical numbers. It appears to be what Guest really wanted to focus on, as considerable screen-time is devoted to the performances and rehearsals. The actors - many of whom are predominantly actors - are great musicians, and they give fine performances. Many of the songs are full of terribly corny jokes, told or sung in a truly cringe-worthy manner, but this gentle fun-poking just adds to the laughs and makes the songs all the more memorable.

I can't say that I love A Mighty Wind as much as Waiting for Guffman, but I'm certainly not disappointed with it. It's just made with a different focus - there's a lot of love put into this movie, and it really shows.

andy-j gives this movie 8 out of 10.
Review created on Fri 16 Jan 2004

"Funny Folk" - a review by pearly

Imagine the story of three folk music groups who are reunited for a memorial to the recently deceased owner of their old record label. This can't be a comedy, can it? There's nothing particularly funny about folk musicians. But, of course, in the hands of (director and writer) Christopher Guest, (writer) Eugene Levy, and the usual Guest movie cohorts, it is.

Guest himself forms one third of The Folksmen, along with Michael McKean and Harry Shearer. As well as them, there are The New Main Street Singers, a mismatched group formed from descendants of the original group and various clingers-on. Lastly, there are the darlings of the label: Mitch (Levy) and Mickey (Catherine O'Hara), who haven't seen each other since their falling out many years earlier.

The movie traces the week or so leading up to the concert, as well as the concert itself. Guest actually takes a bit of a back seat for this movie - his acting role isn't as stand-out as it was for Best in Show (2000) or Waiting for Guffman (1996), but this isn't to say that the movie is less funny. Once again, most of the laughs come from the improvisation of each of the tremendously talented actors; and in many cases, the funniest parts have nothing to do with folk music. A great example of this is the interaction between Levy and Jim Piddock (who plays Mickey's husband), in a scene where Leonard shows Mitch his model train set.

More than this, though, is that there are so many minor characters hanging in the wings waiting for their moment to shine, and all of them deliver hilarious moments at some point during the film - from each of the offspring of the late Steinbloom, to the staff at the concert hall, to the managers and marketing people.

Of course, by focusing the movie around folk music, there are also the songs to enjoy, all of which are written by the cast members. The actors also learnt to play their respective instruments, and aside from improvising all of the dialogue in the movie, they played and sung each of the songs live for the final concert. Impressive.

A Mighty Wind has many laugh-out-loud moments, but it is a comedy that doesn't feel it has to make people laugh every thirty seconds or more - it's happy to provide a build-up to a particularly funny or ridiculous moment. I absolutely love the style of Guest's "mockumentaries", and this is certainly no exception. I don't see how any other fan of his previous films could disagree. I'm pretty sure that it will only improve with repeated viewing, too.

pearly gives this movie 8 out of 10.
Review created on Mon 21 Jul 2003

Movie review statistics

Number of reviews: 3
Average rating: 8.00
Lowest rating: 8 (by mino, andy-j, pearly)
Highest rating: 8 (by mino, andy-j, pearly)
 
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Reader comments

  1. very funny - cannot wait for
    next film

    Rating given: 10

    A comment from EMMA on Mon 14 Mar 2005 18:55 #

Those who have commented give this movie: 10.00 (1 rating)

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