Saturday, May 23, 2015

This Is Spinal Tap (1984) goes to eleven for authenticity

This is Spinal Tap movie review
Photo Credit: This is Spinal Tap / Embassy Pictures
Mockumentaries are a difficult genre to pull off. It's difficult for a studio or director to successfully parody a person or event without becoming too much of a farce itself. Not many are able to get passed an audience's lie detector. Director Rob Reiner earned all the respect and acclaim in the world for making This Is Spinal Tap, even if it isn't an instant favorite of mine.

Following a fictional British heavy metal band called Spinal Tap, a crew documents the group's contention as their recent U.S. tour comes apart at the guitar strings. It's your typical decline of a rock band with a story centered around their new album failing to gain sales, canceling tour dates, and their antics on-stage/off-stage.

Comedy itself is a hard thing to define; how do you describe what makes you laugh. With Spinal Tap, for me, it's the ridiculous amount of small details is what makes this flick an understandable classic. Backstage interviews, the band getting lost on their way to the stage from their dressing room, and a huge mix-up with the proportion of the stage set design are little hysterical moments that add up to why it's funny. While the jokes weren't always a laugh riot, the genius lies in how genuine the band comes across.

While the performances may not reap the benefits of Oscar praise, Reiner's work is a solid reminder that not every classic is going to garner Academy gold but it can earn the respect of other industries. During its initial release, the film failed due to moviegoers lack of familiarity with the band, having thought it was a real documentary. Music legends like Ozzy Osbourne and U2's The Edge swear it gimmicks their life to a tee. That is some real kudos to the authenticity of the film, its cast, their creativity, and talent.

Though I am not a fan of the 80s, especially it's music, the songbook was impeccably ridiculous. Never again will you hear some of the most ridiculous lyrics every pieced together, and think "Yeah, that sorta fits the era". It's also the type of movie that if you can quote it, you've established yourself as an official movie buff - and there are plenty of memorable one-liners.

As much as I give kudos to the movie and its impact, the film is comical but somewhat lags. Having filmed hundreds of hours worth of improvised scenes, what Reiner collects for his final version still maintains its legendary status. However, not every joke or scene is particularly funny. My attention waned when some of the bands' key players seem to ramble on incoherently (as is the actor's gimmick) and the jokes were less spot-on. The dry humor has its hits and misses.

Not that this hurts the film in any huge way, just that those not familiar or care about the 80s era/rock bands might not be attracted to watch this. I could count myself a member of both groups but was always intrigued by the movie and finally felt the need to give this one a chance. I'm glad I did; it was insanely clever but also a bit blah.

Rating: ★★☆
Have you seen This is Spinal Tap? What did you think?

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