Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Movie Review: This Is Spinal Tap

Director Rob Reiner’s first feature, This Is Spinal Tap (1984), is close to an inspired piece of satire. In the guise of a “rockumentary” about a fictional British heavy-metal band, it pillories the AOR (album-oriented rock) music scene of the early and mid-1980s. Reiner lampoons—and hilariously—almost everything related to his subject: the crassly squandered musical talent; the ridiculous efforts of the aging members to maintain the Dionysian appeal of their younger days; and the absurdly pretentious flash and gimmickry of both their image and stage performances. (The only thing missing is a swipe at music video.) Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, and Harry Shearer, who play the principal band members (and who co-wrote the film’s script with Reiner) are just about perfect; Spinal Tap is all but indistinguishable from the other dinosaur rock bands of the 1980s. However, as on-the-mark as the film is, it has also become dated. The pop-music milieu of the ‘90s and aughts was quite different from what came before; acts were invariably sidelined before they became embarrassing to people their own age. If the viewer wasn’t there to see the pop-culture environment the film depicts, he or she may find the picture more than a little silly. Or maybe not: the talent-show environment of today makes the one the film depicts seem dignified by comparison. Reiner himself appears as the director of the film within the film.

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