Friday, March 9, 2012

Ten Statements About....THIS IS SPINAL TAP (1984)

To you, it's Harry Shearer stuck in a plastic pod.  To others,
it's a metaphor for life.
"There's such a fine line between stupid and clever."

1) Let's get this out of the way--this film does fit fully with Deja's Law of Satire--if you remove all the jokes, the film still holds up as a documentary about a rock band falling apart. Hell, there's a ten minute chunk toward the end of the film which is extremely true to life as the leads stare they impending obsolescence in the face.

2) That being said...this film does not hold up well, and the main reason for that is that our lead characters are utter morons. Unlike in later efforts directed by Christopher Guest, where we're brought into an insular world that's already a little insane by normal societal standards, David, Nigel and Derek wander around in a world that's recognizably real, which makes moments that are meant to be comedic come off as awkward and sometimes even cruel.

3) Even more so than our core trio, the character of Ian Faith, played expertly by Tony Hedra, comes off extremely well. Yes, he says some strange, borderline stupid things--but the way Hedra reads the lines and reacts later in the film to the idea of co-managing with June Chadwick's Jeanine seems to indicate that he's playing down to his charges in the same way a patient father deals with his perpetually stupid sons.

4) And speaking of June Chadwick--I now remember why I crushed on her in the V television series. Just saying is all.
You know, when you're on Fran Drescher's side of an argument,
you may have outgrown this film.

5) You know who, to my surprise, comes off extremely well in this picture? Fran Drescher. Once you get past her goofy 'Bobbi Fleckman!' intro, she plays her role very serious, and you can certainly understand the resistance she gives to the album cover. It makes me wonder what her career would have been like if she pursued a more serious acting career instead of becoming a lame caricature of a Noo Yawk babe.

6) And it needs to be said that the film would not have worked on younger Tom back in 1984 if Michael McKean, Christopher Guest and Harry Shearer didn't know how to write actual songs. The only thing that makes the songs in this movie parodic are the lyrics and the presentation--taken as artifacts on their own, they're no worse than many of the songs written by actual metal acts of the some cases, they're actually better.

7) I truly idolize Harry Shearer. I admire his humor, his writing ability and his willingness to stand up for his political views every Sunday on KCRW. has been, and always will be, difficult to get the sight of his man-fur out of my head sometimes. I pray for his wife--a talented performer in her own right--that the pelt he seems to wear as Derek Smalls was artificial.

(On a related note...I wonder why, even though Guest and McKean frequently switch starring roles in all of Guest's movies, Shearer always ends up as a background player. Is it by choice or...?)
Airline searches were tough on soccer stars, too...
(Oh, comon--you guys are prolly quoting the lines each
still belongs to right this minute...)

8) Legendarily, this film was improvised, as are all of the film featuring Guest, McKean and Shearer. But the amazing thing about that fact--and about the later, Guest-directed films--is that it never has that anarchistic, unformed air of an improvised film. This thing feels like a complete artifact, not a sketch of one...which is why I almost regret the trio's need to keep revisiting this one thing of theirs over and over again.

9) I imagine this was Rob Reiner's idea, and not the trio's, but I love the brief cameo by Patrick MacNee as Sir Denis Eton-Hogg. Not just because I love The Avengers, but because the cameo--much like Drescher's role--is played totally straight, which adds a little bit of veracity to that crucial first act (after all, if we don't buy into the conceit in the first act, the film is lost).

10) I have to say this...while Michael McKean's David St. Hubbins matches the type of heavy metal vocalist he's satirizing perfectly, Christopher Guest may very well be the weakest link in the film with his Nigel Tufnel. The character never feels real, and he comes off as so stupid he could be marginally retarded. It's hard to see him functioning in this group at all, let alone for the seventeen years the band is supposed to be in existence at the start of the film

Overall...a film that's sort of lost its lustre due to the test of time, it's still worth watching as the blueprint for the Christopher Guest canon that will follow it.

No comments:

Post a Comment