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A Mighty Wind (A Movie Review)

Updated: Jul 18, 2023


Starring 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.

Screenplay by Christopher Guest & Eugene Levy.

Directed by Christopher Guest.

Distributed by Warner Brothers Pictures. 94 minutes. Rated PG-13.

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 Spinal Tap days. The artists not only have a great love for the musical genre, but they also 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 Spinal Tap (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 are about… well, diners, trains, kissing, flowers and stuff like that. These are fine, upstanding, Americana-laced subjects, but they aren’t 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 (I’m sorry, it’s 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 other’s ways.

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 O’Hara play Mitch and Mickey, singing sweethearts who haven’t 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. (4/03)

Alex Diamond

Copyright ©2003 All rights reserved. Posted: July 21, 2003.

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