by Brian McKay
The directorial debut from Rob Reiner spawned a life of its own. What started as a low-budget Rock and Roll "Mockumentary" grew into radio airplay, MTV videos, Television appearances, and even a subsequent (though inferior) album. It's a pop-culture phenomenon almost on a "Blair Witch" scale, and twenty years later, it's still funny as hell.The film tells the story of fictional band "Spinal Tap" who are rapidly fading into has-been obscurity. After twenty years, numerous band member changes, and several musical mutations, they have "evolved" from a sixties Beatles-esque pop group, to an eighties spandex-wearing, crotch-stuffing glam metal band. Along for the ride is Marty Di Bergi (Reiner), a filmmaker who sets out to capture the "sights, sounds, and smells" of a Rock and Roll band on the road and instead captures every possible embarassing mishap on film.
"It's such a fine line between stupid and clever . . ."
The centerpieces are Nigel Tufnel (Christopher Guest), David St. Hubbins (Michael McKean) and Derek Smalls (Harry Shearer), who, in addition to co-writing the film with Reiner, also wrote and performed the music. Surprisingly, these three have just enough talent as writers, actors, and musicians, to pull the whole thing off.
The thing that makes this film work is how subtle it is, how real it feels. Despite all the hilarious moments, it's easy to forget that Spinal Tap isn't a real band. It often looks and feels like the real deal, complete with manipulative girlfriends, in-band squabbles, clashing egos, and managerial hassles. And whenever one of the characters opens his mouth to pontificate on something, they capture the ignorant pretentiousness of the average rock star perfectly. How many times have we watched an interview of a rock star and thought "God, this guy is a fucking idiot!". "Spinal Tap" creates that moment again and again, each more hilarious than the last.
But there is enough seriousness injected into the film to keep it from becoming complete camp, hence its genius. This is particularly true of the special edition DVD which has approximately 70 minutes of previously cut footage in the special features section. It is all run together in one coherent montage, and it almost feels like watching a second Spinal Tap movie. Although the material is generally not quite as funny as that in the film, there are several interesting, even poignant moments where the characters are fleshed out a bit and seem even more real. In addition, the DVD has tons of other stuff, including a great commentary by the three principal actors, music videos, talk show appearances, promotional spots, etc.Not only is it an instant classic, it's a hilariously scathing indictment of the rock and roll lifestyle, and all the egoism and shallow philosophising that goes along with it.
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originally posted: 08/13/01 22:08:15