Tuesday, July 5, 2011

714. This Is Spinal Tap (1984)

Running Time: 82 minutes
Directed By: Rob Reiner
Written By: Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, Rob Reiner, Harry Shearer
Main Cast: Michael McKean, Christopher Guest, Harry Shearer, Rob Reiner, Tony Hendra


Sure "Meathead" isn't the greatest director of all-time, but the fact that he has four films in the "1001" book gives him rights to a tribute week here on the blog, so damn it, I'm going to give it to him. His first film up is "This Is Spinal Tap", a film that I had never seen and that is currently streaming on Netflix.

The film doesn't really have a plot, but rather, is set up like a documentary (expect it's fake, earning it the name "mockumentary") and tells the story of the fictitious band Spinal Tap. We're introduced to the band, including front man David St. Hubbins (McKean), guitarist Nigel Tufnel (Guest) and bassist Derek Smalls (Shearer). The "documentary crew" meets up with Spinal Tap during their newest U.S. tour, as they promote their new album, "Smell the Glove". The film is loaded with one-liners and comedy bits that there really isn't a whole lot of time for a plot. Instead we get fake archival footage of the band, road stories, stories about how the band was formed and life on the road for the British rockers. However, a plot is sort of squeezed out when David's girlfriend joins the band on the road and becomes their new manager, ruffling Nigel's feathers. Rob Reiner plays the documentarian, Marty DeBergi.

"This Is Spinal Tap" is a film that I've always wanted to see, but until last night, had just never gotten around to it. After watching it, I was left with that "That was it?" feeling. It frequently happens with me and movies that I put off seeing for years and years, because when I finally see them, I've built them up in my own head for so long that they've become great without me ever witnessing them. However, when trying to erase all the preconceived notions of greatness about the film and looking at it based solely on the picture itself, it wasn't half bad. It was actually really funny and sure, I laughed out loud a few times. I've always enjoyed Michael McKean, though I've really never seen a whole lot of him and prior to "This Is Spinal Tap" had NEVER seen Christopher Guest and he turned out to be a new find for me, as he was really the star of the film - comedy wise.

If you're looking for a laugh...or two, then give "This Is Spinal Tap" a look. Musicians will probably get an extra kick out of the jokes, as there's a whole bunch of stuff in there that kind of pokes fun at real life rock bands, including the many deaths of the many drummers of Spinal Tap, the controversy surrounding the cover art of their album and the on-stage perils of the band. The film isn't perfect, even for a comedy, but it has it's moments.

RATING: 6/10 Nothing great, nothing horrid, so a '6' is fitting. Next up for Reiner: "Stand by Me".


July 5, 2011 1:10pm


  1. I showed my younger sister The Great Pie Fight by Laurel and Hardy. She was...whelmed. "I've seen pie fights before", she explained. I had to explain that these guys all but INVENTED the pie fight. So yes, you've seen these gags before, but you have to realize they were on untrodden ground, stamping down the grass with their feet so others might follow.

    Similarly, I think one of the issues when young(er) people see a film like Spinal Tap is they've already seen a lot of "Mockumentaries", and as such, the jokes are seen as lacking. But you have to realize that this film functionally invented the genre. Albert Brooks did "Real Life" (another film worth a look for its prescience) some years before, but this one perfected the formula.

    Christopher Guest has since taken them to an art form, by giving a small script to a repertory company of actors and letting them flesh out the skeleton.

    Some of the jokes are slightly dated, like the "new" wireless microphones picking up radio chatter, but taken in context, they're still screamingly funny.

    And while Rob Reiner may not be the "best director ever", he's done such a good job in SO many genres, he's one of the few directors I'd trust with Heinlein.

  2. I actually watched "Real Life" for this blog already and thought that it was horrible. Very un-funny and basically pointless, if you ask me. "Spinal Tap" was funny, it just didn't work for me on some levels.

    The genre of "Mockumentary" is a genre that I've had very little experience with actually, so it wasn't really that the jokes didn't hold up, it was just that it didn't hold up as well as I thought it would. I had this film so built up in my head that I pretty much let myself down and that's my fault.

  3. One of my personal favourite films this one.. but I can see why it dosn't hit for some people.
    Have you ever seen any of his others? 'Best in show' for dog show lovers, 'waiting for guffman' for am-dram,l 'Mighty Wind' for those of us old enough to remember the folk music scenen of the 60's.. and 'For your consideration' for film fans. What I think is good is that you only need to know a little about the subject they spoof to finhd it funny. And whilst some of the humoiur is spot on in pointing out the foibles (Sp??) of a group of people so wrapped up in their own little world, it5 never seems cruel.

  4. No I have never seen "Best in Show", "Guffman" or "Mighty Wind", but wouldn't mind checking them out someday. Thanks for you input Ray, it is always appreciated.


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