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This Is Spinal Tap

"This Is Spinal Tap' looks like a documentary filmed during the death throes of a British rock band (it doesn't really exist), but it could have: the music, staging, special effects, a backstage feud, and pseudo-profound philosophizing are right out of a hundred other rock groups and a dozen other documentaries about rock. It's one of the funniest, most intelligent, most original films of its time((Spinal Tap is in the middle of an American tour that's not going well; once able to fill giant arenas, it now has audiences far smaller, and concert dates that evaporate. No wonder: Spinal Tap is a bad band: derivative, obvious, phony, and pretentious. The movie is inspired; it subtly establishes Spinal Tap's badness in deft satire with a wicked touch. Spinal Tap isn't much worse than most successful rock bands. A few breaks here or there, a successful album, and they could be back.

Narrator Reiner explains that he was first attracted to the band by its loudness, and followed them on tour, asking profound questions that inspire deep, meaningless answers. His cameras catch the group coming unglued. One band members brings in a girlfriend from England who feuds with the group's manager. Bookings are canceled. Their record company doesn't like the band's newest album cover. A disastrous booking takes Spinal Tap to a military base's dance. The movie brilliantly tells its story through what happens in the background and at the edges of the frame, so we learn as much about the personalities and conflicts of the band members as if the movie had been straightforward narrative.

The climax of the band's Stonehenge production number involves their being reborn from womblike stage props, and in other moments of inspired satire aimed at previous styles in rock films, we get glimpses of Spinal Tap in earlier incarnations - starting out as a sort of folk group plunged into the flower-people generation, and a little late getting into heavy metal, satanism, and punk).

"This Is Spinal Tap' assumes its audience will get its the jokes. I think that's right. "Entertainment Tonight," music TV, and Barbara Walters have made show-business talk into national gossip, so one of the greatest pleasures of this movie is that it doesn't explain everything, but simply, slyly, destroys rock pomposity.
Director(s): Rob Reiner
Writer(s): Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, Harry Shearer, Rob Reiner
Cast: Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, Harry Shearer, Rob Reiner
Release Date: 1985   
Keyword: Mock documentary; British rock bands; 1980s' music
Target Age: 14+   Category: media
Documentary: no
Language: English   Reviewer's Name: Micah
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