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A Mighty Wind - Movie Review

Author: Dimitra Katsieris
Wednesday, August 27, 2003
Some films offer a lesson, some inspire, many examine moral ambiguities and human dilemmas—and others simply offer a bloody good laugh. Actor/director Christopher Guest's latest comedy, 'A Mighty Wind' was supposed to deliver the latter, but, unfortunately, falls short.

The film marks Guest's third attempt at directing—his first being 'Waiting for Guffman' (1996) about an amateur theatre group in Blaine, Missouri, celebrating the town's 150th birthday, and his second, 'Best in Show' (2000), which follows a group of fanatical dog owners preparing to show their dogs in the 125th annual Mayflower Kennel Club Dog Show. Both films offer a witty and incisive commentary on the foibles of small town America.

In 'A Mighty Wind', Guest turns his attention to the rise of folk music in the 1960s.

When a renowned music producer dies, his son organises a memorial concert showcasing three of the most popular folk bands of the 60's. The film focuses on the three groups set to play at the concert, with frequent flashbacks to their golden years. Guest brings back to the fold his old 'Spinal Tap' buddies, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer', to make up 'The Folksmen', a folk band which gives new meaning to bright, fluffy cardigans and weird facial hair.

The common thread linking Guest's three films is his ability to gather an ensemble of incredibly gifted actors who are able to breathe life, humour and compassion into the strangest of characters, and make them credible. He does so to a much lesser extent in 'A Mighty Wind'. The collection of oddballs in this film simply aren't as fleshed out as in Guest's previous offerings and some of the jokes fall sharply into the 'eyeball rolling' category of silliness.

The other major flaw is that the film focuses very little on the actual fans that contributed so strongly to the popularity of the folk genre, and this may have helped the viewer (particularly those of us who weren't born until the 70's) understand what it was about folk music that so captivated and moved people.

Performances from Guest film regulars such as Eugene Levy (the father in 'American Pie'), Catherine O'Hara, and Parker Posey, are exceptional—though Eugene Levy's dim-witted Mitch severely grates on the nerves by the end of the film. And, having collaborated on various projects, Guest, McKean and Shearer work together like a well-oiled machine.

'A Mighty Wind' does contain some genuinely funny moments, particularly when flashing back to cover albums with titles such as "Hitchin'", "Wishin'", "Pickin'" and "Singin'", but the film lacks the exuberance and sheer levity of Guests' previous films. You'll get a laugh here and there, and you might reminisce a bit about the good old days when folk music rocked, but I doubt The Folksmen or the The New Main Street Singers will stay with you after you've stretched your legs and discarded your popcorn container.