Monday, November 24, 2003

A Mighty Wind doesn’t blow
Review by Sombrero Grande

This is one of those difficult movies to review, because it’s GOOD but not GREAT. People have already been unavoidably comparing this to Waiting For Guffman and Best in Show, and A Mighty Wind seems to be trailing both. In this reviewer’s opinion, it’s not because it’s not funny or smart, it’s that the laughs seem more sporadic than they should be. There are some really hilarious moments in this film but they’re all too often separated from each other by long stretches of flatness. Several scenes and storylines end without producing a single laugh, and some attempt—unsuccessfully—to be “sweet” instead of funny.

Like the other Christopher Guest films named earlier, there are some great characters in A Mighty Wind, but not nearly as many as there should be, given the enormous and talented cast. The one standout for me was Fred Willard as Mike LaFontaine, owner and founder of Hi-Class Management, former star of the short-lived sitcom Wha’ Happened? and self-proclaimed creator of such catch phrases as “wha’ happened?” and “I don’t think so!” Willard never failed to crack me up every time he came on screen. Sadly, none of the other characters managed to do this. Eugene Levy portrays one of the more memorable characters in the film, singer/musician Mitch Cohen, but despite trying very hard he never manages to achieve the kind of laughs that he got with such ease as Waiting For Guffman’s Dr. Allan Pearl. Wha’ happened? Perhaps it’s because there’s such a HUGE cast of characters here all vying for near-equal screen time that there just isn’t enough time to have all these character concepts pay off. Parker Posey, Jennifer Coolidge and Larry Miller’s parts become almost cameos. Larry Miller’s character has a great, funny set-up as a PR guy who dislikes folk music, but from then on all the “disliking folk music” material is given to Don Lake who, despite being very funny as the town historian in Waiting For Guffman, here does little more than look bored and frustrated. I know how he feels. Other characters, like The Folksmen (Spinal Tap’s Guest, McKean and Shearer) just seem too plain and ordinary as characters, which is a real shame considering the hilarious stuff I know these guys are capable of. There’s one great surprise gag at the end of the film involving Shearer, but it only served to remind me of the wasted time earlier in the film that was sorely lacking that kind of zany humor.

Another criticism is that there’s absolutely no explanation for the song that the movie is named for. At the end of the memorial concert, all the various musicians come together to perform “A Mighty Wind” but no one bothers to introduce it first or explain why it’s such an important song. Was it Irving Steinbloom’s personal favorite? His biggest hit song? Something he wrote that never had been played before? We don’t know. I suspect Christopher Guest knows its significance and it would have been nice to let us in on it too. The song’s great—funny, catchy and really sounds like a popular old ‘60s folk tune—but I really wanted to find out WHY it’s so important.

Jeez, it sounds like this whole review I’ve just been ragging on this film. Really, it’s not a bad movie or a bad way to spend some time. It DOES have some very clever and funny moments, but just not as many as you might expect. In summary, this Mighty Wind is more of a breeze; light and pleasant entertainment with scattered laughs and a 50% chance of memorability.


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