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A Mighty Wind (PG-13)
Warner Brothers
Official Site
Director: Christopher Guest
Producer: Karen Murphy
Written by: Christopher Guest, Eugene Levy
Cast: Christopher Guest, Eugene Levy, Catherine O’Hara, Michael McKean, Harry Shearer, Michael Hitchcock, Fred Willard, Jennifer Coolidge, Bob Balaban, John Michael Higgins, Jane Lynch, Parker Posey, Paul Dooley, Ed Begley Jr.

Rating: out of 5

In a world awash in mediocre comedies, it feels good to laugh again.

The death of a once big time folk music honcho is the impetus for an old school NYC folk reunion in A Mighty Wind. The New Main Street Singers, Mitch & Mickey, and The Folksmen are about to take center stage again. One would think these old folkies would say, “Oh, it’s on. After years of watching new wavers, punk rockers and pop stars take the stage away from us, it’s our time now.”

But no. Where there’s a folk singer’s will, there’s always a dilemma in the way. Or actually, really teeny tiny problems that can be easily avoided, but in a film by Christopher Guest (and starring his crew of usual suspects) these miniscule problems become focal points of odd hilarity. You must laugh at the weirdness, or else be cast away into a humorless wasteland full of sappy people who think Maid In Manhattan was a comedic gem.

The characters are full of eccentricities and idiosyncratic tics, just as they are in Guest’s previous films Waiting For Guffman and Best In Show. To say that the characterizations are at all repetitive though is far from the truth. By using the same actors again and again, Guest perfects the art of recycling old pros, all the while challenging their strength as actors in one fell, funny swoop. Ranging from an ex-porn star folkie to a hubbie who sells catheters for a living, it’s safe to say that the cast of characters is atypical, entirely original, and loveable all at the same time.

The actors themselves seem to be on their way to perfecting the art of mockumentary and improv. The mannerisms of any one of these guys are enough for an explosion of laughter before any pun, joke, or witty opinion is attempted. Blank expressions, squinty eyes, and idle hand gestures alone sent audience members into convulsions of laughter. And the smallest characters get the biggest laughs as well. The asides by Fred Willard and Jennifer Coolidge in particular are destined to become classics.

With his keen attention to detail, Guest has safely procured his place as a true auteur in American cinema.

Catherine O’Hara is amazing as Mickey, formerly of Mitch & Mickey (a twosome that oozes the sweetness of early Sonny & Cher). Her acting chops have always been impressive and when she teams up with Eugene Levy, who plays Mitch (her slightly deranged ex-partner) their performance together is the embodiment of good acting. The tinge of sorrow that underlies O’Hara’s entire act ranks her on top of all the performances in the film.

Other favorites include: Parker Posey’s brief appearance as an ex-street girl and recent addition to the sickeningly wholesome New Main Street Singers; and The Folksmen trio, played by Guest, Harry Shearer, and Michael McKean (a Spinal Tap reunion), have unbeatable chemistry and timing as aging folk stars.  

Just as Waiting For Guffman has slowly gained a cult audience since 1997, and Best In Show garnered widespread approval a few years back in 2000, A Mighty Wind keeps the ball rolling in this lineage of films (all started by Rob Reiner’s This Is Spinal Tap in 1984) and continues to carve out a niche in cinematic history.

This mockumentary rocks like a rock star! Er … folk star.

—Sandra M. Ogle


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