A Mighty Wind Movie Review

Christopher Guest's latest feature A Mighty Wind is purely and gloriously Guestian. If you've seen his last two films, Waiting for Guffman and Best in Show, you know exactly what I mean by that.

For the rest of you, Guestian movies are mockumentaries that usually send up some peculiar topic (community theater, dog shows), star a troupe of the same handful of very talented comedy actors (with a heavy Second City bias), are for the most part improvised, are always directed by Christopher Guest, and are typically hilarious. Also, they all apparently have three-word titles. Yes, Guestian films follow a formula, but yet they end up being some of the most original, creative movies I ever get to see. And, A Mighty Wind, while not the best of Guest's trio of ensemble comedies, is no exception; it's definitely Guestian all the way.

Guest wrote the screenplay with longtime collaborator Eugene Levy, looking to make this third fake documentary musical (something with which Guest's familiar with both This is Spinal Tap and Guffman under his belt), which led to the curious theme: folk music, a musical genre that peaked in the '60s with groups that ranged from sweet and cooing to angry and protesting. Look out, Peter, Paul, and Mary--Guest and crew are on your case.

The plot hangs from the death of folk music impresario Irving Steinbloom. To honor his dad, Steinbloom's son Jonathan (Bob Balaban) organizes a televised reunion concert for some of Irving's once-popular acts: The Folksmen (a Tap reunion of Guest, Michael McKean, and Harry Shearer) who have a fondness for droppin' the "g" off of "-ing" titles; The New Main Street Singers (John Michael Higgins, Parker Posey, Jane Lynch), a nine-piece ("neuftet") populated by more damaged goods than a Goodwill and managed by a slimy has-been comedian (Fred Willard); and Mitch & Mickey (Levy, Catherine O'Hara) who were split as much by Mitch's nervous breakdown as by divorce. The groups reunite, and are eager to give Irving a nice send-off as well as prove that they're still relevant as performers.

The result is definitely funny, but Wind isn't quite the side-splitter its predecessors have been. It's kinder and gentler compared to the other two, and edgier is actually funnier in my book. But that's not to say there aren't laughs. Most of the big guffaws come in tasty bits from individual performances.

Willard, as the Singers' manager, is a total riot every moment he's on screen, dispensing unhelpful show biz advice, given from the point of view of a has-been best known for a weak catchphrase ("Wha' happened?"). Ed Begley, Jr. is brilliant as a Swedish-born, folk music-loving public broadcasting producer who's compelled to drop some Yiddish every time he's around a Jewish person. And Posey, while only featured in one monologue this time around, will have you in tears by the time her five minutes of screen time is up.

Bottom line, A Mighty Wind is for fans of Guestian films, even if it's not the funniest of these movies. But that's some wicked competition! Putting it in perspective, Wind will definitely be the funniest movie out in theaters this week, up against such fare as Anger Management and Bringing Down the House. It may be "formula," but Guest does some of the best formula comedy I've ever seen.



A Mighty Wind Rating

" Excellent "

Rating: PG-13, 2003


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