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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

'This is Spinal Tap' Review

Take a moment to be sure that your speakers are at full volume. I'll wait.

But now, since this is a review of This is Spinal Tap, turn those speakers up louder. You're going to need that "extra push off the cliff" for this one.

Spinal Tap follows Marty DiBergi (Rob Reiner, also the director) a filmmaker, as he chronicles the journey of the failing heavy metal rock band Spinal Tap, as they tour the USA for the first time in years. Spinal Tap, it seems, has been forever unable to grasp the type of popularity they (and all other bands) crave; and yet the members live in a world of blissful ignorance to their lack of musical skill and showmanship, convinced they aren't the punch line to some great joke.

Spinal Tap lead musicians David St. Hubbins (Michael McKean) and Nigel Tufnel (Christopher Guest) are best described, by themselves, as visionary poets, out of the mold of Jim Morrison or (a future) Kurt Cobain. Of course, all this is subjective. Spinal Tap has gone through many changes as a band, notably the death of the bands first 3 drummers, but its popularity never seemed to wane. Even on their comeback tour they have trouble selling out 4000 seat arenas, as well as taking second billing to a puppet show. It's all the same, but their commendable ignorance- or maybe straightforward lack of knowledge- helps them to remain upbeat in times of failure. Spinal Tap is a band that no one really knows, but that everyone takes for a joke (it's remarked on in the film with "Remember them as they were and write them off")- the best way to describe them would be to compare them to a Daniel Powter-level celebrity. Remember 2005? It wasn't that long ago, but Daniel Powter owned the radio waves with his song 'Bad Day,' remember? Now if you herd his name in a conversation you might chuckle quietly to yourself wondering what kind of clown you are talking to that would mention Daniel Powter in a conversation. Daniel Powter could probably sell out a 4000 seat arena, but I wouldn't be surprised if floor seats were less than 10 dollars a pop.
If you'll notice these speakers go up to 11...

That got anti- Daniel Powter rather quickly. Sorry about that, let's get back to Spinal Tap.

What makes this movie funny is also its Achilles heel. The stupidity of the band members. Yes, it's funny when they can't fully make sense of the interview question, or something happens to them that is directly correlated to them being stupid, but it also becomes tedious. For me there are parts that are just so filled with stupidity that it becomes hard to watch, and this isn't a drama. It's a comedy, and I want to watch it. It makes me smile to think about a incompetent rock band but, even in 82 minutes, there is only so much I can deal with.

Largely this movie is a great comedic achievement, in fact its mocumentary style has influenced countless other movies in the same fashion, but its 'look how stupid these guys are, isn't it hilarious' motive really overwhelmed the rest of the movie. If for 20 minutes we could have seen the dynamic between Hubbins and his girlfriend, and how it pissed Nigel off, fully explored it would have made the comedy even greater. Comedy lies in truth not in stupidity.

This is the story of Spinal Tap. "And why not?"

8/10-- Need to See




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