May 17, 2003 -- If you liked "Best in Show," then you'll probably like "A Mighty Wind." It is the same kind of film, written, directed and acted by most of the same crew, including many of the same actors. The "mockumentary" spoof on folk music was written and directed by Christopher Guest ("Best of Show" and "Waiting for Guffman"). Guest also acts in the film as folk singer Alan Barrows of the group "The Folksmen," a group which looks a lot like the real folk group The Kingston Trio.
The plot has to do with the death of a legendary folk music producer by the name of Irving Steinbloom. A memorial folk music concert is planned to celebrate his career. Old groups like the Folksmen return for the show. The popular duet of Mitch and Mickey are reunited for this concert. Once they were lovers, but their breakup was stormy and this fragile alliance threatens to fall apart before the concert. Also appearing in the show are The New Main Street Singers, which bear a strong resemblance to a real folk group called The New Christy Minstrels. Steinbloom's son, Jonathan (played by Bob Balaban), is putting the show together, and he is an unbelievable worry wort. One of the funniest moments of the film is when somebody finally gets fed up with Steinbloom's compulsive worrying and bonks him on the head.
Balaban is one of many actors in this film who also appeared in "Best of Show." Among the others are Ed Begley Jr., Jennifer Coolidge, John Michael Higgins, Eugene Levy, Catherine O'Hara, Parker Posey and Fred Willard. Levy and O'Hara play the turbulent duet of Mitch and Mickey. The humor in the film is so low key it almost puts you to sleep. Once in a while the humor is over the top, like when one of the Folksmen has a sex change operation, but most of the time it is very subdued, almost flat. The sly satire not only pokes fun at folk music, but at the Public Broadcasting System and at public relations (as in the strange public relations team of the Zipken Group) and music management people. Fred Willard, who was so good as the color commentator in "Best of Show" plays pretty much the same role here, but he seems out of control and downright silly most of the time.
I wasn't all that impressed by "A Mighty Wind." It seemed pretty flat. I was not all that impressed by "Best of Show," either, but it was funnier than this. The music isn't bad, but it wasn't up to the level of the folk groups being spoofed. For my money, the best comedy about putting together a band made up of feuding musicians is "The Committments" (I haven't seen "Spinal Tap"). "The Committments" is funnier and the music is much better than "A Mighty Wind." Chances are, if you thought "Best of Show" was the bee's knees, then you'll probably like "A Mighty Wind." It is more of the same fake documentary humor. It also has that same kind of affection for the subject and the people it makes fun of. From the box office figures I've seen, it looks like the fans of Christopher Guest are an unusually loyal and dedicated lot. This film rates a C.
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