The talented Eugene Levy
ponders over whether or not
taking that Queen Latifah gig
was worth the long-term damage
it did to his fragile psyche.
A Mighty Wind
Review written by: Alex Sandell
About a decade after everyone else noticed, the corporations picked up on folk music. As they have done time and again, the "majors" caught scent of an important musical scene that was ready to explode and realized that it was the perfect time to exploit it. The heart and soul was ripped out of folk and in its place came profit and disposable # 1 singles from bands clueless toward what made the music great in the first place.
A Mighty Wind is a "mockumentary" featuring fictionalized versions of these lesser folk "artists" reuniting for a one night only memorial concert. Director/Screenwriter/Actor Christopher Guest, along with co-screenwriter and actor Eugene Levy, have, once again, created a story about a group of people whose eerie dedication to their marginal work is made enduring due to the child-like enthusiasm they have for their craft.
Guest and Levy hit upon something new back in 1996 with the very funny Waiting for Guffman. The two sat down and wrote a script that included everything but the dialogue. Guest, as director, set the stage for the incredible cast he assembled, turned on the camera and let them flesh it all out in documentary form. The improvisational approach lent a breath of fresh air to the feature that put it a step above most of the scripted comedies that were relying far too heavily on stock jokes and formulaic plots.
Four years later the duo took the identical approach with Best in Show. The film worked, but to a lesser extent than their earlier effort. Now, along comes A Mighty Wind. Although the movie isn't significantly worse than Best in Show, it suffers largely by having the *ahem* wind taken out of its sails by its predecessors. A "been there, done that" feeling creeps into the movie within the first few minutes and stays with it until the end credits roll. It doesn't help that the film grows less and less funny as it moves toward its climax.
A Mighty Wind makes the mistake of taking itself seriously and the music, most of which isn't that humorous, takes precedent over the comedy by the time the actual memorial concert begins. The film deteriorates into the equivalent of a night watching washed-up one hit wonders playing at the county fair. A comical "six months later" type epilogue is slapped on as an afterthought to remind the audience that the movie they just finished viewing began as a comedy.
The actors in A Mighty Wind vary from good (Fred Willard, Michael McKean, Catherine O'Hara, John Michael Higgins, Jane Lynch, Jennifer Coolidge, Bob Balaban, Paul Dooley, Jim Piddock) to wasted (Parker Posey, Larry Miller, Ed Begley Jr.) to cartoonish and implausible (Christopher Guest, Harry Shearer, Eugene Levy). Of course with this many performers some are going to be stuck in forgettable roles and others are bound to have an "off" day; and even though two out of three of them came off as too unbelievable, it was fun to see the Spinal Tap guys together again, this time in a folk band.
Although they sometimes come up empty, everyone involved gives it their all and the good time the actors are having translates into a fairly fun time for the audience. The first half of the film provides plenty of that snap, crackle and pop magic that we felt in Waiting for Guffman. You could do a lot worse at the theater than A Mighty Wind. It's worth a recommendation, just not accolades.
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Text ©(Copyright) 2002 Alex Sandell [All Rights Reserved].