“Sir, what’s in there that
got my detector so turned on?”
Faking the Band
With reality TV and documentaries as popular as ever, I thought the 1984 mock-documentary “This is Spinal Tap” would lose much of its innovative charm. I was surprised to be entirely wrong. It is so fun and fresh; I can’t picture the picture spoiling. This is a perfect slice of “authenticity,” in the most entertaining way.
Spinal Tap is a British heavy metal band and its main members – David St. Hubbins (Michael McKean), Derek Smalls (Harry Shearer), and Nigel Tufnel (Christopher Guest) – are about to embark on an American tour. Tagging along is TV Commercial director Marty DeBergi (the film’s director Rob Reiner), who’s making a rockumentary to capture the band’s highs and lows. Oh okay, they’re mostly lows, but they’re the movie’s humorous highs.
“This is Spinal Tap” has an abundance of hilarious scenes and that’s why it’s one of the funniest films of all time. I can’t help but smile as I ponder about the band’s early beginnings, their sophomoric songs, ghastly album concepts, their concert mishaps, and its drummer’s curse. Unlike gut-busting comedies these days, it doesn’t just string together a series of comedic productions. It sustains a level of amusement from start to finish. The reason for this is simple. The rock and rollers are naturally fun to observe. Mostly improvised, actors McKean, Shearer, and Guest fully embody their roles. There’s not a hint of “performance” to solicit laughter. A lot of hilarity comes from the musicians’ ignorance of being the butt of the jokes. Watch them attempt to speak intellectually but they end up saying something dumb. It’s credibly unbelievable.
To the movie’s credit, Spinal Tap members are far from caricatures. The band might be a self-absorbed bunch, but the film grasps that they live in a rock star fantasy bubble. There’s reality in their being out of touch with reality. Nevertheless, they’re still people; they have their own pitfalls, glories, and (soap opera) dramas to face. Perhaps, humanizing the characters is where the movie achieves perfection, because I really bought the whole thing. While I’m told “This is Spinal Tap” is a faux documentary, I deem it an original. In other words, it’s the real thing.
Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, Rob Reiner, Harry Shearer, Tony Hendra, R.J. Parnell Screenplay by Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, Rob Reiner, and Harry ShearerDirected by